Sugbo TV may reduce staff, lose satellite feed

Posted on January 4, 2013

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NO more satellite connection.

Fewer staff.

An ongoing “review” of the province-owned Sugbo TV cable station, which was temporarily shut down by Acting Gov. Agnes Magpale, may end up reducing its 35-member workforce by half and its broadcast coverage
“I think 35 workers is too many. My target is to slash it by 50 percent so we can save expenses,” said Provincial Board Member Arleigh Sitoy who was tasked to handle the review.

Sitoy said the province may also forego the use of a satellite to save on cost and instead air programs on public TV to reach the “masses”.

“I don’t think we need a satellite because our market is confined in Cebu. We should focus on the province of Cebu,” he said.

Work contracts of 35 Sugbo TV casual employees expired Dec. 31,2012 but 31 workers decided to resign rather than seek renewal while two filed a graft complaint with the Ombudsman in the Visayas against Magpale and three other officials for halting operations on n Dec. 21.

Among those who quit is Rolando Canaya, a 42-year-old photographer and father of three, who worked there for almost four years.

“Nabalaka ko kay wala na koy trabaho para paeskwela sa akong mga bata. (I’m worried because I no longer have a job in order to send my children to school,” he told Cebu Daily News.

He said he resigned because he wasn’t satisfied with the one-month extension offered by the acting governor.

Sugbo TV, a pet project of suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, was launched in 2008 and aired on SkyCable Channel 14.

“If they really needed to review it, it was not necessary to close or padlock it,” said Garcia yesterday.

“Naniguro mani sila ug pag-justify sa padlock ug pasira sa Sugbo News ug Sugbot TV.”

She said the closure was a big loss to Cebu, because the 24-hour cable channel and monthly newsletter was multi-facted and a good avenue to promote the culture and tourism of Cebu province.

“Sugbo TV was a showcase of our towns and culture,” she said, citing programs like “Kabilin” which featured heritage and culture, “Kusina Sugbo” about Cebuano food and delicacies, and Mabuhi Ka, Sugbuanon” which highlighted awardees of the provincial government’s annual “Garbo sa Sugbo“ (Pride of Cebu) awards and a section on “Know Your Officials”

Sitoy, a Liberal Party member, disagreed.

He said the TV program and newsletter were actually used to promote Garcia, whose face and activities figured prominently in the broadcasts and newsletter issues.

“We should stop using Sugbo TV for political purposes. Cebuanos deserve the right information. Our funds in the province are dwindling,” said Sitoy who met with IT personnel of the Capitol to discuss operations of Sugbo TV.

Sitoy said the province may forego the use of a satellite to save funds, and instead air the programs on local TV channels.

“If Sugbo TV is a cable station, it could not reach the masses. We’re assessing it. It’s not going to be easy,” said Sitoy, who sponsored last year’s ordinance in the PB seeking to rationalize and institutionalize the province’s media programs like Sugbo TV and newsletter Sugbo News.

In a PB budget hearing last month, Garcia’s chief of staff Bess Francia told lesgislators the province pays P100,000 a month to Skycable and $14,000 for the satellite feed.

In a previous interview, Acting Governor Magpale said the province’s cable TV program and newsletter “do not promote tourism of Cebu but instead promote the interest of Governor Garcia”.

Magpale is the subject of a complaint filed by Rowena Zulueta, designated head of Sugbo TV, and Rufo Carzana, a reporter of the cable news channel who said press freedom was unduly restrained wthout valid reason.

Also named respondents were Police Chief Supt. Marcelo Garbo Jr., the regional director of the Philippine National Police in Central Visayas; Police Supt. Leopoldo Cabanag, head of the Regional Public Safety Battalion 7; and lawyer Czareem Joseph Estella, a consultant of Magpale’s Office.

They were accused of grave abuse of authority and other violations of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and grave coercion.

“By directing and causiing the closure of Sugbo TV and Sugbo News for the whimsical reason that it merely promotes the personal interest of Gov Gwen Garcia, respondents have unduly and illegally restrained the constitutional freedom of the press without any finding of valid reasons to do so, much less a written order to that effect,” said the complaint.

It said Sugbo TV was connected with the Office of the Governor and has a Memorandum of Agreement with Pacific CATV Inc. which is set to expire on Feb. 2013. Also, Sugbo TV and Sugbo News have existing contracts with several advertisers.

Last Dec. 21, the complainants said they received a letter from Magpale who ordered them to report to her. Zulueta and Sugbo TV operations head Katrina Tabanao went to Magpale’s office where they were allegedly interrogated about the operations of the cable news channel.

In the evening, several persons barged into the office of Sugbo TV and Estella told staff to immediately leave.

The satellite uplink room in a container van near the CFI Cebu Community Cooperative Building, was also shut down, they said, and no investigation was made to prove that they are biased in favor of Garcia who is serving a six-month suspension.

“Truth to be told, we have been constantly consulting with and visitng the Office of the Vice Governor (Magpale) for the past several months to see if she had any accomplishments and projects for the benefit of the Cebuanos, as is our madnate to proclaim these good news, very few were newsworthy,” they said.

The complaint said no ocal elective official has the power to suppress or order the closure of any establishment unless it be the nature of “abatement of public nuisance.”

“Ultimately, it is the province of Cebu who suffers and consitnues to suffer, as it is being deproved every single day, from its lawful use of its property and the right to broadcast and publish the good news of its projects and accomplishments…,” the complainants said. /Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter

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