KBP chief defends ABS-CBN's blocktime deals, says it's 'standard practice'

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2020 06:40 PM | Updated as of Jun 29 2020 08:44 PM

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MANILA (UPDATE) - Blocktiming or the purchase of air time in a channel from a franchise holder is a "standard practice" in the broadcasting industry, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas' (KBP) president said on Monday.

ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak said in a joint House committee hearing on the company's franchise renewal application that the company has an annual blocktime agreement with Amcara Broadcasting Network, and that Amcara's Channel 43 was not part of the National Telecommunications Commission's (NTC)
cease-and-desist order issued against ABS-CBN on May 4.

ABS-CBN is currently airing various programs digitally via Amcara Broadcasting Network's Channel 43. ABS-CBN sold its 49% stake in Amcara in 2019.

"Itong practice po ba na bumili ng blocktime ay standard practice. Karaniwan po yung blocktime arrangement sa industriya ng broadcast and it ranges from a few hours to almost the whole day ang arrangements sa blocktime ngayon," KBP president Jun Nicdao said when asked by Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate.

(The practice of blocktime is standard practice. This arrangement is usual in the broadcast industry and it ranges from a few hours to the whole day.)

Nicdao added that in a blocktime agreement, the control of the station remains with the franchise holder. A violation would occur if a blocktimer takes control of the station, he said.

EAT BULAGA CASE

Zarate cited the blocktime partnership between GMA 7 and Television and Production Exponents Inc. (TAPE Inc.) to air Eat Bulaga, considered the longest-running variety show in the Philippines. The 40-year-old program has been airing on GMA 7 for the last 2 decades under a blocktime arrangement.

"[I]sa sa pinakamalaking programa na nagba-blocktime ay 'yung Eat Bulaga na pagmamay-ari naman ng Television and Production Exponents Inc. (TAPE Inc.) so sila po may sarili silang studio, sarili silang tauhan, mga talents, etcetera, at sila po ay bumibili or nagba-block time. Dati po noon ay sa iba ibang istasyon at ngayon nga ay nasa GMA sila," Zarate said.

"So pag nagba-blocktime 'yung TAPE o Eat Bulaga, hindi naman niya pag-aari 'yung GMA tama po ba 'yun?" Zarate asked KBP.

KBP agreed with Zarate's assertion.

"Tama po 'yung sinabi niyo Cong. Zarate. In the case of TAPE, bumili po sila ng mga 2 o 3 oras [airtime sa GMA] at hindi po sa kanila, they don't own the station, they just buy the block time," Nicdao said.

Cavite 7th District Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla and SAGIP party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta both questioned the airing of ABS-CBN programs on its TVPlus box even after its franchise had expired.

Although NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba argued that Channel 43 was part of the closure order, upon Zarate's questioning, the regulator later on admitted that the channel itself was not specifically mentioned in NTC cease-and-desist order.

Cordoba also said ABS-CBN's blocktiming deal warrants more scrutiny.

Zarate agreed that issues should be scrutinized, but that ABS-CBN should also be given a provisional authority similar to what other broadcast firms enjoyed while their franchise renewal applications were pending in Congress.

Katigbak appealed for "fairness" after some lawmakers insisted that its TVPlus and Sky Cable offerings should also shut due to ABS-CBN's expired franchise.

Katigbak said some 55 million individuals or 11 million households could lose their source of news and entertainment if these services would cease to operate.

ABS-CBN has shut its free TV and radio operations nationwide, following an order released by the NTC.

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