6 channels, 1 franchise illegal? Cable operator disputes peer's claim against ABS-CBN

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 07 2020 12:28 PM | Updated as of May 07 2020 12:40 PM

6 channels, 1 franchise illegal? Cable operator disputes peer's claim against ABS-CBN 1
An ABS-CBN employee wearing a protective face mask works in a control room at the broadcast network's headquarters, following orders by telecoms regulator to cease its operations in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, May 6, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA - A group of cable operators rejected Thursday its peer's accusations of supposed violations by ABS-CBN Corp. which allegedly merit its closure. 

Estrellita Juliano-Tamano, chair of Federation of International Cable TV and Telecommunication Association of the Philippines (FICTAP), earlier this week revived allegations that the media giant's pay-per-view feature and TV Plus digital television box are illegal. She also questioned why ABS-CBN had 6 channels under 1 franchise. 

But Philippine Cable and Telecommunication Association President Ronald Manlapig said the number of channels that a frequency can carry will depend on whether broadcast quality is standard or high-definition. A franchise assigns a broadcast frequency of 6 megahertz to a network.

"Hindi natin kailangan magkaroon ng separate franchise bawat channel," he told ANC. 

(We don't need to have a separate franchise for every channel.) 

The National Telecommunications Commission, he added, had not yet released guidelines on pay-per-view services. 

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The phrase “commercial purposes” in ABS-CBN’s franchise is “broad enough” to allow its Kapamilya Box Office (KBO) offering that let subscribers view a specific set of movies for a fee of P30, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told senators in February.

Introducing the KBO without guidelines yet from the NTC merits only a fine of P200, Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said in the same Senate inquiry. 

Manlapig said the Department of Information and Communications Technology earlier mandated broadcast outfits to switch to digital from analog technology. 

"Ang buong mundo, nagta-transform na and lumilipat na sa digital. Hindi natin puwedeng mag-stay tayo sa analog," he said. 

(The whole world is transforming, shifting to digital. We can't stay with analog tech.) 

The NTC on Tuesday forced ABS-CBN off the air, citing the May 4, 2020 expiration of its franchise. Bills for the network's license renewal, some filed back in 2016, remained unprocessed in Congress. 

"Talagang nakakalungkot kasi ang laki ng nagagawa ng ABS-CBN to give information dissemination to our people," said Manlapig. 

(It's really disheartening because ABS-CBN has a big contribution to giving information to our people.) 

Malapig's group has for decades partnered with ABS-CBN to bring its shows to far-flung areas, he said. 

Aside from franchise delays, ABS-CBN is facing a quo warranto challenge lodged before the Supreme Court by Solicitor General Jose Calida. The government's lead lawyer is seeking to nullify ABS-CBN's franchise due to alleged illegal pay-per-view offerings and foreign ownership.

The network, which reached millions of Filipinos through its television, radio and online platforms, said it did not violate the law in its 65 years of service.
 
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