KBP to Comelec: Reconsider airtime limits

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2013 07:34 PM | Updated as of Jan 25 2013 06:52 AM

MANILA - The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) today filed a letter before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) seeking a reconsideration of Resolution 9615 which regulates political campaigns and advertisement.

Top KBP officials led by KBP Chairman Ruperto Nicdao, President Herman Basbano and legal counsel Rudolph Jularbal trooped to the Comelec's offices in Manila to file the letter.

Jularbal said the letter raises new arguments questioning the constitutionality of the resolution. “Maraming probisyon sa resolution na naglalabag sa batas, hindi lang Constitution. Lately nga, lumabas pati kulay ng pagdadamit, yung right of reply. Posisyon ng KBP, naglalabag din sa karapatan natin sa media," he told reporters.

Nicdao said networks cannot monitor the airtime consumed by candidates in their rival companies. He said Comelec also failed to consider the evolution of broadcast technology in its resolution.

"Walang kontrol ang networks na bilangin  ang minutes na nagamit ng kandidato. Hindi pwede kasuhan, tanggalan ng lisensiya sa pagbroadcast dahil walang kontrol sa total minutes ng kandidato,” he said.

He added: “Ang platforms ng pagbroadcast, di na lang limited sa free to air."

Basbano said the KBP was not consulted before the resolution was issued. He said they only met with the KBP last December 26 after learning that a resolution had been made.

"Nagdesisyon na before they consulted us. Lumalabas dito before the meeting they made up their minds,” Nicdao said.

SC option

Basbano said the KBP is simply fighting for the rights of voters to information as well as the rights of candidates to present themselves to the public.

All media companies, including broadcast, make money from advertisements and commercial spots. The Comelec has previously stated that the networks are merely protecting their commercial interests when they questioned the airtime limits.

Basbano, however, noted that broadcast companies aren’t the only businesses making money during election season.

"We don't deny there will be revenue. Sino ba di makagenerate ng (revenue) election time? Everybody generates. Election pumps all sectors. Everybody benefits,” he said.

The KBP is hoping the Comelec will consider their letter even as it holds on to its option to elevate the matter to the Supreme Court.

The group said it remains a partner of the poll body in ensuring orderly and honest elections, noting its role in organizing for candidates as well as the counting of votes.

Prior restraint

In its letter, the KBP said the resolution is unconstitutional as it imposes a prior restraint on the media with the requirement of the Comelec's consent for radio and TV guestings of candidates.

The KBP also noted the resolution amends the Fair Elections Act and creates criminal liability on the part of the networks. It argues that the candidates are held liable for actions they have not authorized.

It also assailed the requirement of publishing surveys, saying it expands the coverage of the resolution.

The KBP pointed to the fragmented nature of broadcast station's viewers/listener markets even as it supposedly did not consider the implications of some regulations on the broadcast and cable industries.

The KBP said the Comelec order subjects traditional media to class legislation as it failed to consider the emergence of new media. "If persons engaged in Internet casting, i.e streaming programs and other content in the Internet akin to broadcasting but in the Internet, will this Internet casting stations be considered in counting airtime exposure?"

Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said the KBP letter will be discussed by the Comelec en banc. He said the poll body is keeping an open mind, and that stakeholders were consulted.

“I think there's a possibility a public hearing will be called. We’re looking forward to that when we issued the resolution. It was how we felt the campaign should be managed. If there are reactions, that's par for the course. We are not closed-minded about it,” he said.

"We had a meeting with stakeholders. KBP was invited, ad execs and representatives were there. One of the outcomes is KBP's position paper,” he added.

Regarding the right of reply, Jimenez said the Comelec recognizes that reporters' attempts to get interviews with all sides of a story constitute the right to reply.

He said the Comelec merely wants to make sure this happens. "Bigay natin opportunity for candidate who feels he was not given the opportunity,” he said.

Right of reply

Jimenez, howeve,r felt it was premature to talk about how it could be implemented.

"We can handle on a case-to-case basis. Kami magiging conduit between candidate and network. Don't think may sanction agad."

The spokesman said Comelec will wait for candidates to file to invoke their right to reply.

He clarified that airtime limits on candidates do not cover news

Jimenez added that negative campaigns against candidates are not covered by the right to reply. He explained this is more for local media.