MANILA - Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla has filed 4 different resolutions in the House of Representatives seeking changes in existing systems and operations of the country's television industry.
Among his proposals is for Congress to have a say on who gets to use state-owned frequencies, including those assigned to ABS-CBN which he and 69 other lawmakers denied a new franchise last July 10.
Remulla's House Resolution 1082 wants the Committee on Legislative Franchises (CLF) to execute a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on the rearrangement, allocation and assignment of the frequency spectrum and frequencies.
The MOU shall have the following features:
- The NTC shall submit to the CLF a frequency spectrum which shall take into consideration the best allocation of the frequencies, taking into consideration the latest available developments in science and technology including the full migration from analog to digital television.
- The CLF shall issue a resolution declaring which frequencies will be made available for the use of all duly enfranchised entities which shall include the National Government.
The NTC shall then assign the specific frequencies to all duly enfranchised entities after their respective applications have been approved, the proposal says.
In his House Resolution No. 1081, Remulla sought for a congressional inquiry in aid of legislation into the status of the framework of the Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Migration Plan of the Department of Information and Communication Technology.
Remulla cited the need to prevent the following:
- the repeat of alleged serious violations committed in the ABS-CBN TV Plus, which, he said, saw demonstration tests resulting into a commercial roll out, despite the fact that the conditional access system guidelines had not been issued;
- the alleged use of dummies like the Amcara Broadcasting Network to allegedly evade the effects of a cease and desist order of the NTC;
- the alleged illegal entry of telecom companies like Multi Media Telephony and ABS-CBN Convergence into the broadcast industry; and,
- the collection of payments for pay-per-view services even if ABS-CBN’s previous franchise only allowed to have free to air broadcasts.
During the ABS-CBN franchise hearings, company President and CEO Carlo Katigbak said the TV plus units rollout was in compliance with the government's mandate to shift to digital from analog broadcasting, set to be completed by 2023.
Katigbak told lawmakers that TVPlus units offered free channels, while the Department of Justice (DOJ) told a Senate hearing in February that the pay-per-view channel called Kapamilya Box Office was allowed under the network's old franchise that expired May 4.
ABS-CBN also explained its block time arrangement with Amcara during the hearings, which they and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) say is a common industry practice.
ABS-CBN divested its 49-percent stake in Amcara on Jan. 24, 2019, the company had said.
House Resolution 1080, meanwhile, urges the CLF to create an Ad Hoc Committee to study the possible legislation to reorganize and regulate the cable antenna television (CATV) systems nationwide.
It noted that Executive Order 205, issued by President Corazon Aquino regulating the CATV systems, was issued on June 30, 1987, by virtue of the President’s legislative powers under the 1986 Freedom Constitution.
According to Remulla, that Constitution expired when the 1987 Constitution took effect February that year.
Remulla said EO 205 allowed the CATV operators to expand their operations nationwide with only franchises from local government units and certificates of authority from the NTC.
Recently, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta, who also voted against ABS-CBN's franchise application, urged the NTC to consider shutting down Sky Cable, ABS-CBN’s cable TV company.
With this resolution also, Remulla is calling for the passage of a law that requires programming protective of Filipino culture, bars dual citizens and foreigners from the cable TV industry, and prohibits the use of Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs).
During the ABS-CBN franchise hearings, lawmakers questioned the right of ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III to own and manage the company over his being a dual citizen of the Philippines and the United States, the issuance by ABS-CBN Holdings Corp of PDRs, and some themes and content of ABS-CBN shows.
But an official of the DOJ said dual Filipino citizens like Lopez have the same right as any other Filipino citizen as far as running businesses and practicing their profession in the country that the Constitution allows them in. The Securities and Exchange Commission SEC agreed with the DOJ's position.
ABS-CBN also maintained that PDRs do not violate the Constitutional mandate that media companies should be 100-percent owned and controlled by Filipinos, saying that these financial instruments do not amount to ownership of shares, nor do they give holders the right to vote for the company's board of directors.
Other media companies, including ABS-CBN's chief rival, GMA Network, have holding firms that sell PDRs. These holding firms, not the PDR holders, have stakes in the broadcasting firms.
SEC Commissioner Ephyro Luis Amatong also said during the ABS-CBN franchise hearings that ABS-CBN Holdings Corp did not violate SEC regulations when it issued PDRs, although the question on whether the sale of these financial instruments to foreigners violates the rule on 100-percent Filipino ownership in mass media is still up for the Supreme Court to decide.
As regards content, ABS-CBN Corp. chief operating officer (COO) for broadcast Socorro Vidanes said at the hearings that the network's shows are always anchored on values that make a Filipino family.
ABS-CBN programs mirror realities of Filipino families and provide audiences lessons and values unique to its culture, Vidanes said.
Finally, Remulla’s House Resolution 1083 urges the CLF to amend its internal rules to consider the findings and recommendations of the committee's technical working group (TWG) on the ABS-CBN franchise issue.
Remulla wants the TWG's findings and recommendations to be the norm in mass media franchise applications filed with the House of Representatives.
Despite relevant government agencies clearing ABS-CBN of irregularities and delinquencies, the CLF members, as well as leaders of the chamber, rejected the network's new franchise bid, effectively fulfilling President Rodrigo Duterte's threat in the past.
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