As preparations are underway for President Rodrigo Duterte’s historic final State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July, the different agency heads of his administration are likewise busy doing their own report cards.
As the General Manager of state-run People’s Television Network (PTV), former broadcaster and travel show host Kat de Castro approaches the task with two major distinct disadvantages to consider: she came in late in the game, having started only in May 2020; and, of course, she had to be saddled with pandemic-related concerns, which inevitably ate up a lot of her executive time.
“I will forever be known as the GM who had to take care of PTV during the pandemic. We were able to amplify a lot of the information for COVID and everything COVID-related, everything that is vaccine related. We had us to get rid of all the fake news,” says de Castro, when asked to summarize her first year in office for her own mini-SONA (which, in her case, could mean State of the Network advisory!). In terms of broadening the station’s audience base, she adds: “I was also able to revamp and revitalize the programs of PTV, to make them more appealing to a wider audience. We were able to get a lot of viewership even from millennials and, of course, we are the go to source for everything government-related.”
Recognizing that the key to elevating the network’s on-air quality both in terms of content and transmission is having properly motivated people, de Castro has also worked on ensuring that the employees’ well-being is taken care of. “Binalik natin yung mga tamang benepisyo para sa mga tao, although kulang pa, pero dahan-dahang binabalik. Alam natin na maraming naghirap because of this pandemic so the only humane thing to do is really to give them the benefits that will help them tide things over this pandemic,” she declares. Sometime during the launch of PTV’s Christmas Station ID last December, de Castro received a touching note from the network’s Employees’ Association thanking her for facilitating the timely release of their bonuses despite the pandemic. PTV personnel were likewise appreciative of the Noche Buena packs they received, which some said was the most generous, “in years.”
With the Duterte Administration soon left with just a year to wrap up all the remaining items on its agenda, what does the young GM wish to accomplish with the time she still has in PTV? Her quick answer: “I’d like PTV to have a wider reach in the Philippines. Right now, we only have 13 stations in the country. There are a lot of provinces that do not have yet the station of PTV so I’d like to build more transmitters in those areas.”
Given the huge power and responsibility the government-owned television station has in shaping the minds of the people, de Castro believes three things should be done in order for PTV to fully serve its purpose. The first and the most important thing, according to her, is all about programming: “PTV has to produce more shows that would be of interest to the majority. We have to change our charter in order to produce more entertaining shows. If we are able to come up with better and more competitive content then we could give the other networks a run for their money.”
She also believes in positioning better for future audiences: “We also have to improve our social media following. We have to improve our digital content. In the Philippines, TV is still very popular but in the next few years, everything will be over the mobile phones.”
Her third point, brings her back to something that is really basic: “We have to improve on our table of organization. The table of organization of PTV is right now kind of obsolete and is not as competitive as you would see with other stations.”
Working in government, while fulfilling for most part, also has its pitfalls. Being the subject of malicious talk and white papers are just a part of the everyday grind. In fact, de Castro has also gotten her own share of such, sometimes even being tagged as a “no-show GM,” which she would rather shrug off. “As GM, I have to go around the Philippines to travel and check the stations for myself,” she reasons. Not being in the head office, after all, does not necessarily equate to not working. “When I became GM of PTV, wala na akong weekend. Because even weekends, in my case, I’m asked to attend meetings that have to do with COVID information drive, lately vaccine drive, now, SONA naman. So everytime I wanna spend time with my family, and something comes up, I have to tell them I can’t just go ahead and do your thing.”
What’s worse, de Castro says, is that travelling also leads her to having to make her biggest sacrifice.
“Everytime I go home, I have to live in another place and be away from my family at least a week or ten days more because I don’t want to bring home any sickness to them. That’s very sad kasi I’m very close to my family. They are my escape from my everyday problems and I can’t even escape to them,” she laments.
Despite all these, there’s just no stopping Ms. Kat from pursuing her personal mission of making a difference for both the network and for the nation: “I would like people to really stop thinking of PTV as a propaganda station.”