Antitrust body seeks role in reassignment of vacated frequencies

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 27 2022 02:55 PM

MANILA - The Philippine Competition Commission on Thursday said a "competition lens" should be employed when reallocating vacated broadcast frequencies considered as "public goods."

Manny Villar's Advanced Media Broadcasting Systems Inc was awarded provisional authority by the National Telecommunications Commission to use frequencies previously held by ABS-CBN, including Channel 2.

A similar permit for the use of Channel 43 was awarded to Pastor Apollo Quiboloy's Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) under Swara Sug Media Corp, while the PA for Channel 23 was given to Aliw Broadcasting Corp, which currently operates the Home Radio and DWIZ. 

Quiboloy and Villar are known allies of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Reallocation is a regulatory function of the NTC and is not covered by the merger review mandate of the PCC but the inclusion of competition review has been a practice in other jurisdictions especially in areas where there is a limited supply, it said. 

The NTC earlier noted that AMBS, Swara Sug Media Corp and Aliw Broadcasting Corp have been waiting for frequencies to become available since early 2000. 

"The PCC recommends amending the rules to include it as approving body in the assignment of vacated or available frequencies," it said in a statement. 

"This is a practice done by many jurisdictions across the world, in consideration of the impact on competition of players over scarce public goods like frequencies," it added.

The antitrust body also said it is backing the passage of the "Open Access in Data Transmission Act" which would pave the way for more transparent and fair spectrum management in the Philippines.

The PCC is following its mandate of fostering a level playing field among new or existing players, it said. Meanwhile, it urged the public to "check" on price consistencies in relation to the frequencies previously held by ABS-CBN.

"The PCC invites the public’s attention to check on the quality and price options available to the viewing public during the tenancy of AMBS, ABC, and SSMC as provisional authority-holders of frequencies previously managed by ABS-CBN," it said. 

The House of Representatives denied ABS-CBN's application for a fresh 25-year franchise in 2020 despite regulatory agencies confirming that the network had been compliant with existing laws.

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