MANILA - The head of a group of cable television operators in the country said on Tuesday they would oppose the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN Corp., the country's largest broadcast network.
Estrellita Juliano-Tamano, chair of Federation of International Cable TV and Telecommunication Association of the Philippines (FICTAP), alleged that the media giant has been operating its TV Plus and pay-per-view (PPV) without a license and permit.
"ABS-CBN is just on a test broadcast. Kaya 'yong sinasabi nila na merong permit, wala sila permit. 'Yong pay-per-view na sinasabi sa quo warranto, hindi puwede 'yon," she said, referring to the petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida before the Supreme Court.
(ABS-CBN is just on a test broadcast. They don't have a permit. That pay-per-view discussed on the quo warranto petition, that should not be allowed.)
"Wala sila lisensya kaya dapat hindi sila naniningil no'ng nilalabas nila sa black box," she added.
(They don't have a license so they shouldn't charge for what they show on the black box.)
ABS-CBN, in a press statement after Calida filed the quo warranto petition, said the PPV service was approved by authorities.
"All our broadcast offerings, including KBO [Kapamilya Box Office], have received the necessary government and regulatory approvals and are not prohibited by our franchise," the company said.
Tamano also alleged ABS-CBN would unfairly benefit from a quicker approval if Congress renews its franchise. She said it usually takes years to get an application approved.
“Kami ang mawawalan ng hanapbuhay. Nag-apply kami [for franchise] for 6 years sa NTC [National Telecommunications Commission], sila short cut," she said.
(We will lose our livelihood. We apply for a franchise in the NTC for 6 years. They're taking a short cut.)
FICTAP is composed of 600 cable operators in the country with some 24,000 employees, Tamano said.
Should Congress not grant ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise, the FICTAP chair offered the group's services in airing the news and entertainment programs of the network.
"Kapag itong [Ang] Probinsyano, mawawala, hahanapin ito sa amin. Hihingi lang sila ng isang channel sa amin—if the price is right," she said, citing the top-rating ABS-CBN primetime series starring Coco Martin.
(If 'Ang Probinsyano' goes off the air, people will look for it in cable. They can just ask a channel from us—if the price is right.)
University of the Philippines journalism professor Danilo Arao and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines said the public should be reminded that the issue goes beyond the franchise of ABS-CBN.
Shutting down ABS-CBN will change the news environment, he said.
"The kind of critical reportage, it's possible it will not happen anymore," Arao said.
For his part, Ryan Martinez of the College of Editors Guild of the Philippines said, "'Yong legal na pamamaraan ay inaabuso at binabaluktot para ipakita na sino mang maglalabas ng kritikal na pahayag o hindi nagugustuhan ng administrasyon ay kaya nitong supilin."
(Legal means are being abused and twisted to curtail reporting that is critical of the administration.)
Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza called on Congress to start deliberations on the bills that will grant ABS-CBN a new franchise, which is set to expire on March 30, 2020.
"Ayaw ninyo aksiyonan dahil takot kayo. Isara na lang natin ang Kongreso. 'Yong ayaw magtrabaho, ang laki ng pinto ng Kongreso, umalis na kayo. There are many competent Filipinos who can serve better," he said.
(You don't want to act on it because you are afraid. Let's just close down Congress. Those who don't want to work, the doors of Congress are big, you just leave. There are many competent Filipinos who can serve better.)
Former Nueva Ecija Rep. Renato Diaz said he also doubts whether the NTC, which is under the Office of the President, would issue ABS-CBN a provisional permit to operate.
"Ang abogado ng gobyerno, si SolGen [Jose] Calida. He already took a stand na hindi qualified. Paano sasabihin ng NTC na qualified?" he said.
(The government's chief lawyer is Solicitor General Jose Calida. He already took a stand that it's not qualified. How will the NTC say it's qualified?) - Report from Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News