Broadcast frequency loss feared if ABS-CBN franchise renewal delayed

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 19 2020 01:32 PM | Updated as of May 19 2020 03:27 PM

Ted Failon and Bernadette Sembrano report in front of the camera as TV Patrol airs online on May 7, 2020, two days after the National Telecommunications Commission sent a cease and desist order to ABS-CBN. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA—Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri on Tuesday urged fellow legislators to swiftly act on ABS-CBN’s application for a new franchise, warning it might lose its broadcast frequencies as a result of congressional inaction.

The National Telecommunications Commission’s cease-and-desist order shut down a total of 42 television stations, 18 FM stations, and 5 AM stations spread nationwide as of May 5, ABS-CBN’s general counsel Mario Bautista told a senate haring.

The same order also floated the possibility that ABS-CBN might lose its TV and radio frequencies after its broadcast expired last May 4.

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“There really is a need to act on the particular petitions of ABS-CBN due to the fact that they will not just lose operations, but they may also lose their frequencies, which, I think is not fair,” said Majority Leader Zubiri.

“Unless their franchise is outright rejected or vetoed, then we should give them a fighting chance to be able to continue their operations.”

Zubiri cited the difficult process of obtaining frequencies given that most of them were also assigned to specific networks.

“If we lose the frequencies that are assigned to us, it will be another substantial investment in equipment and time before we can get back on air,” ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak told senators.

Zubiri said he would push for a new 25-year franchise for the network, which is struggling with its application before the House of Representatives. 

President Rodrigo Duterte had repeatedly threatened to take the network off the air. Several congressmen also cited the network’s alleged violations of its old franchise.

 

Under fire for sitting on ABS-CBN’s application for a new franchise, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano sponsored a bill to get the network back on the air until Oct. 31 this year, while Congress tackled the application for a longer franchise.

The proposed provisional franchise was passed on first and second reading on the same day last week, but the House opted to reopen the period of debates and amendments to avoid possible legal questions.

One congressman on Monday moved that the Cayetano-led bill be referred to the committee on legislative franchises, a move that could further delay ABS-CBN’s return to free TV and radio.

Legislators have 8 session days left before they go on break on June 6.