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KBP: Closing down ABS-CBN deprives public of news, relief amid COVID-19 crisis

An elderly couple share memories about watching ABS-CBN over the years moments before the network giant signed off on May 5, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) on Tuesday slammed the decision of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to halt the broadcast operations of ABS-CBN following the expiration of the network’s franchise.

“The decision is unfair not only to the network and the thousands who depend on the network for their livelihood but, even more important, to the millions of people served by the network through its broadcasting activities,” the national association of broadcasters of the Philippines said in a statement.

Closing down ABS-CBN during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic could not have come at a worse time, KBP said.

“ABS-CBN is performing a valuable service to the public in the midst of a public service emergency not only by providing important news and information to keep the public safe and prevent the spread of the coronavirus but also in giving the public much relief from the mental and emotional pressures of quarantine by continuing to broadcast its entertainment programs,” it said.

“Without warning, both the public and the government are deprived of that service. It creates an unnecessary distraction for both government and the private sector from focusing on saving lives and keeping people safe,” it added.

The KBP urged the government to allow the country’s largest entertainment and media conglomerate to operate under “equitable remedy” while the company’s franchise bills remains pending.

The group also called on Congress to expedite deliberation on ABS-CBN’s franchise bills that have languished at the House of Representatives.

Solicitor General Jose Calida earlier sought the high court to invalidate franchises of ABS-CBN Corp. and ABS-CBN Convergence citing alleged abuses, including supposed violations of restrictions on foreign ownership.

The Lopez-led network, which reaches millions of Filipinos through its television, radio and online platforms, said it had not broken the law in its 65-year service.

“We did not violate the law. This case appears to be an attempt to deprive Filipinos of the services of ABS-CBN,” the company said in a statement.

ABS-CBN and its subsidiaries have more than 11,000 employees.