MANILA (UPDATE) --An administration congressman on Wednesday pushed for a new 25-year operating franchise for ABS-CBN but with a strong set of regulations, which were seen as the government's way to control the shuttered news network repeatedly criticized by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo described them as “parameters for compliance” to be implemented by the National Telecommunications Commission and other government agencies.
“Otherwise, the owners and officers may be penalized, programs may be suspended, or ultimately, its franchise may be recommended to Congress for revocation,” he said in his sponsorship speech.
Salo’s bill listed conditions such as providing "equal time and opportunity" to "all parties" involved in news and events, which would be reported by ABS-CBN during the scope of its new franchise.
The condition was included in a provision requiring the news network to "ensure impartial and balanced reporting.”
Salo did not say who would determine if ABS-CBN met this specific standard. But the bill will require the NTC to coordinate with other agencies to craft an “institutional plan of action for responsibility and accountability.”
"I suppose there’s a process in all things. We have a judicial process, in this particular process the parties will be given to air their side," he told ANC Thursday.
"For example I have this particular feelings and then I go to this particular office and air my concerns. It doesn't necessarily mean to say--same thing with what we're doing, we file certain cases at the courts. It does not mean I will be granted by the courts."
The document will be the “basis for monitoring the compliance of all franchise holders of television and radio broadcast networks,” according to the bill.
“(Salo) practically wants to dictate the company’s operations,” said Nonoy Espina, president of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
“This is not just legally questionable. It is downright silly.”
ABS-CBN’s application for a new broadcast franchise had been sitting in Congress since 2014 before the NTC shut it down last May 5, a day after its old franchise expired.
Salo’s bill adds to at least 14 other proposals to put ABS-CBN back on the air with a new operating franchise.
The congressman set specific conditions, saying Congress should not wait for another 25 years to “exact accountability” from the news network.
“While we support ABS-CBN’s application for a new franchise, it cannot be business-as-usual for its owners and officials,” he said.
PUBLIC SERVICE TIME
The bill would require the media company to ensure that 60 percent of its workforce would be regular employees.
ABS-CBN would have to submit an annual report of tenured workers and secure a compliance certificate from the labor department.
Salo also wanted the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board to “actively monitor” ABS-CBN’s compliance with another requirement to “promote positive Filipino values” in “all its programs, including its talents and the languages used” by them.
Ten percent of ABS-CBN ads would be allotted to government for “public service time,” according to the bill, which would also require the network to come up with “reasonable and equitable” rates for campaign ads.
“This will enable the electorate to arrive at an informed decision in choosing their leaders and will remove the undue advantage of moneyed candidates over principled ones,” Salo said.
The bill called on the network to have a strong mechanism for self-regulation to prevent the broadcast of materials tending to incite treason, sedition, or rebellion.