We are moving on,” said former Sen. Tito Sotto as a way to describe the deal that he, his brother Vic and Joey de Leon — collectively known as TVJ — have struck with MediaQuest recently “to produce content” for TV5 and its other platforms.
Sotto said TVJ is “leaving behind” TAPE Inc., which produced their variety show “Eat Bulaga!” for 44 long years and will now enter into a joint venture with MediaQuest.
He added that TVJ is determined to bring the “Eat Bulaga” title to the new TV5 program, the content of which will be “100 percent” theirs. “We will see what we can work on with the Intellectual Property Office, find out whether we would have to bring the matter to court,” he told Inquirer Entertainment during a virtual chat on Wednesday night.
Sotto then recalled the time TVJ was still negotiating with MediaQuest, as well as with other producers working for other networks in an attempt to strike the best deal for them and their production team.
“When it was reported that we were already having problems with TAPE, particularly because of its decision to reduce the salaries of our employees, we had already gotten offers from producers—not really TV networks yet. But when May 31 happened and we were forced to make a decision to leave, we received three solid offers within a matter of hours. They all wanted to sit down with us. In fact, the following day, I got a message from my friend, Art (Arturo Alejandrino), who is the chair of IBC 13, containing concrete plans for us. I also got a similar message from Net 25,” Sotto began.
However, their talks with MediaQuest were a lot more “serious” and “pressing,” and the offer they received was “full-blown,” the former senator said.
“This was because they have several platforms. They have three TV stations and even offered us to have our own channel. Their connections internationally are also strong, and their cable network is nationwide. They have new transmitters being put up as we speak. We knew that MediaQuest would go full blast in their support to us in terms of what we wanted and needed,” Sotto reported, adding that the agreement with MediaQuest was finalized on the night of June 6.
‘Blessing in disguise’
“It has been a blessing in disguise for us, and for them, as well, that we were given the chance to work together,” he added. “TVJ will provide content to MediaQuest and all its platforms. There are also talks that would allow us to provide two or three weekly shows — on primetime — for them. This will air during the weekends or after ‘Batang Quiapo.’ MediaQuest will decide on the time slots — we don’t have control over that—but they trust us with the content of the shows.”
If it were up to him, Sotto said he would like the new TVJ show to still air on the noontime slot, “because it has become a habit for a lot of Filipino audiences.”
He explained: “Just this morning, I met a guy who said that when he was still reviewing for the bar exams, he would take a break at noon to watch ‘Eat Bulaga.’ That was a long time ago because he is now a judge.”
Currently airing on the noontime slot on TV5 is the ABS-CBN-produced variety show “It’s Showtime.”
“This program is a go! You will start seeing us on the first week of July, at the latest,” Sotto declared. “We could go on air earlier, although there are still some issues being resolved. We are now setting up a production company for a joint venture. We will be calling it TVJ Productions. That’s what’s making us busy right now. The other details, like the location of the sound stage we will use, are all still being discussed. As far as the production is concerned, it’s a joint venture, and the content is 100 percent ours.”
We then asked Sotto to further tackle the issue of who owns the right to use the “Eat Bulaga” title. He said he was aware that this has sparked debates among lawyers, “who, sadly, don’t really know what happened.”
“They all thought that it was just TAPE that filed for ownership and rights to use ‘Eat Bulaga.’ You won’t see the big picture if you just check the IPO’s online database. It’s incomplete. You have to go there physically,” he explained.
“I feel that we’re backed up by the history of ‘Eat Bulaga’ and the history of Philippine television from 1979. We’re also backed up by jurisprudence in the Philippines and even in the United States, which we would sometimes recall if we cannot find a similar case here,” he said. “It was clear that at the time or moment of creation, the creator is the owner with or without a copyright. This is unless the owner gave or allowed another party to use it. Joey, who created ‘Eat Bulaga,’ did no such thing. For Vic and I, we have been adopted co-owners of Joey, and we have not allowed any other party to use ‘Eat Bulaga’ either. This was back in 1979.”
Sotto then said TAPE Inc. was created in 1981, but the members of its board at the time are no longer members today. “One of today’s board members was only 10 years old in 1981, while another wasn’t born yet,” he pointed out.
In 2011, TAPE registered ownership of ‘Eat Bulaga’ for merchandising and goods. This was approved in 2013 and is set to expire this year, 2023. “They claimed that none of us objected when this was filed. They hid this from us. We have no knowledge of this. Doon pa lang, talo na. They registered it in bad faith. When we found out, we realized that they aren’t the type who would work fairly, so we filed for the correct one: Section 41, which is for entertainment services.
He continued: “The point is, we, and the Filipino people, believe that we are the rightful owners of ‘Eat Bulaga.’ Now that we have struck a deal with MediaQuest, we’re moving on. We shall leave TAPE Inc. in the past. Our aim now is to go for gold — we’re turning 50 in six years. We will be doing history. In the whole world, there is no other show but ours that stood strong for 44 years.”
Sotto said that although people would normally see TVJ merely making jokes about how they were unceremoniously removed by TAPE from their own show in GMA: “We feel sad, too. Among the three of us, Joey cries the most. Vic and I would cry, too, sometimes, especially when we come across messages from our audience, when they share with us their memorable ‘Bulaga’ moments. We’re so touched. We’re so humbled and honored by their words and show of support. We invested blood, sweat, and tears to ‘Eat Bulaga.’ The loud claps of our kababayan are worth all the trouble.”