For press freedom: Hundreds of media workers stand with ABS-CBN after franchise denial

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 13 2020 01:21 PM

ABSCBN employees join press freedom advocates during a candle lighting event outside the ABSCBN Broadcasting Center in Quezon City on July 3, 2020. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Nearly 700 media practitioners have signed an online statement expressing support for ABS-CBN, which recently lost its franchise renewal bid. 

Several media practitioners from various media outfits called the decision of the House committee on legislative franchises to deny the ABS-CBN franchise “unjust and cruel,” as “it threatens the livelihood of workers as we are facing uncertainties due to the pandemic.”

“One media outfit shut down because of the whims and trivialities of those in power is one too many, especially at a time when the public needs credible and independently verified information to make informed choices,” the group said in a statement

Voting 70 to 11, the House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises voted Friday to reject a new broadcast franchise for ABS-CBN Corp which has ceased broadcast operations for more than 2 months. This development jeopardizes the jobs of more than 11,000 workers under the ABS-CBN group, particularly its broadcast business whose programs enjoyed a massive reach of more than 80 million Filipinos here and abroad.

The company had been losing P30 million to P35 million in daily ad revenues following a cease-and-desist order from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) over an expired franchise last May 5 or over 2 months ago. In the past, the NTC allowed other media networks to remain on the air while applying for a new one in Congress. 

ATTACK ON PRESS FREEDOM

In signing the statement, hundreds of journalists, editors and media workers also condemned the "huge attack on press freedom."

“The role of a journalist in a democratic society is to keep the people well-informed to allow them to be free and self-governing, not to serve as any administration’s publicist,” it added.

The group said that the rejection of ABS-CBN’s franchise bill “sounds the death knell to a credible source of news."

The group of media practitioners also said the 70 lawmakers who voted against the franchise renewal “clearly want to treat the press as a propaganda machine that will serve their political interests, embellish their image, and parrot their spin."

“History will surely be cruel to the lawmakers who voted against the franchise renewal of a network that was last shut down during the Marcos dictatorship. The only “historic” deed they were able to accomplish is to make the chamber a pawn for carrying out a personal vendetta,” the group added. 

“Victory came easy for the forces that conspired to bring down ABS-CBN. But the rehabilitation of the image of those condemned by history won't, as it will be fraught with the collective wrath of a people who live by democracy and the rule of law.”

Media experts also condemned the decision of the House committee to reject ABS-CBN bid for a fresh franchise.

While Malacañang said it has maintained a "neutral" stance on the franchise application of ABS-CBN, it could be recalled that President Duterte repeatedly threatened the media giant's push for a new franchise over issues on political advertisements for the 2016 national elections.

On Dec. 3, 2019, Duterte told ABS-CBN that “I will see to it that you are out.” He even said that it was better for the owners of ABS-CBN to just sell the network.

In February, however, the President took a softer stance on ABS-CBN and accepted the apology of the company's President and CEO Carlo Katigbak but clarified that the fate of the company's franchise lies in the hands of Congress.

ABS-CBN has denied any wrongdoing, saying the network has never violated laws in its 65-year service
— report from Mike Navallo, Christian Esguerra, Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News