Palace press chief asks Congress to reconsider IBC-13 ‘zero budget’
MANILA, Philippines — State-owned Intercontinental Broadcasting Corp. (IBC 13) might go off the air by January as it was allocated zero funding under the proposed 2023 budget of the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) as part of preparations to privatize the government station.
But Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles on Friday appealed to lawmakers to consider earmarking an amount of money to allow the IBC 13 channel to continue operations and its employees to keep their jobs.
The OPS has a total proposed budget of P1.2 billion for 2023 under the National Expenditure Program (NEP), the budget proposal prepared and submitted by the executive branch to Congress for its approval.
Of that budget, P473.17 million will go to the head office and P748.3 million to its six attached agencies and state corporations.
But not a single centavo was allotted to IBC, which has been in financial distress for years. “For IBC, we sought funding for their personnel services, maintenance and other operating expenses, and capital outlay so that we can continue IBC’s broadcast. But they got zero, completely,” Angeles told the House appropriations committee on Friday.
“We have a small request. If IBC 13 remains unfunded, our workers there will lose their jobs and by January, we will be closing operations,” the press secretary said.
Angeles explained that budget managers had not earmarked any funding for the broadcast company because it was supposedly already up for privatization.
“But the law states that IBC should deliver at least P1 billion if it is privatized, which will be used for the modernization of PTV 4,” Angeles said, referring to IBC 13’s sister channel.
Below P100 million
Under the current setup, IBC 13 serves as the OPS broadcast arm for education, culture and the arts, while PTV 4 is designated to handle news and information.
Angeles said the OPS had sent a petition to the Governance Commission for GOCCs to request that IBC 13’s privatization category be lifted so that funds could be allocated for the state firm.
In January 2016, then President Benigno Aquino III approved a proposal to sell IBC 13 to the private sector. This was to be done through public bidding with a floor price of P1.977 billion at the time.
That process continued well until the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte with the price going up, although the sale was not completed.
But Angeles said it was improbable to sell it for that much, given that IBC 13’s current market value stood at below P100 million.
“At its current state, IBC cannot raise that amount. We still need to grow its value, but we cannot do that at this stage, especially if it is forced to close,” she said.
Besides IBC 13, another attached agency of the OPS, Apo Production Unit, will get zero funding for 2023.
PTV 4, which will become the sole government channel once IBC is sold, was allocated P125 million.
As for the agency proper, the OPS will have a budget of P192.5 million for personnel services, P275.6 million for maintenance and other operating expenses, and P5.05 million for capital outlay.
No. 1 TV station
The plan to privatize IBC 13, should it materialize, will signify IBC 13 coming full circle.
Established in 1960, IBC 13 started as a private company known then as the Inter-Island Broadcasting Corp.
But it wasn’t until the martial law years when it reached its peak after it was acquired in 1975 by the Benedicto Group of Companies of the late Marcos crony Roberto Benedicto, who set up IBC 13 as it is known today.
IBC 13 became the No. 1 television station from 1977 to 1988, broadcasting a variety of programs that were considered for its time to be socially relevant, entertaining, informative and commercially viable.
After the fall of the Marcos regime, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), tasked to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies, sequestered the TV station.
In 1992, the company became wholly owned by the state following a compromise between the PCGG and Benedicto.
In July 2000, IBC 13 was granted a 25-year franchise. In 2010, IBC 13 operated under the control of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, later reorganized and renamed as the OPS under the Marcos administration.
With IBC 13 going private, PTV’s rise as the sole government station was being arranged under Republic Act No. 10390, which identified IBC 13’s privatization as one of the sources of funding for the increase in PTV 4’s capital.
IBC 13 had 163 employees in its central office and provincial stations last year. It reported a revenue of P220.525 million and assets amounting to P1.053 billion in 2021, according to the latest audit report of the Commission on Audit.
Its website lists Arturo Alejandrino as chair and Hexilon Josephat Thaddeus Alvarez as president and CEO.
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