13 senators push for bill granting ABS-CBN 'provisional franchise' until June 2022

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 11 2020 05:11 PM

MANILA - At least 13 senators on Monday filed a bill that will grant ABS-CBN Corp a "provisional franchise" while Congress is still tackling the media giant's bid for a fresh 25-year license to operate.

The measure seeking to allow the Philippines' largest media network to resume its broadcast operations is " an attempt to save all the thousands of direct and indirect jobs dependent on ABS-CBN in a time of great unease and economic contraction," the senators said in the bill's explanatory note.

Under Senate Bill No. 1521, the company will be allowed to operate until June 30, 2022 "to give Congress further time to deliberate on ABS-CBN's franchise."

"The non-renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise will result in the loss of thousands of jobs as the network has over 11,017 employees including its artists, independent contractors, suppliers, and content creators who are spread out in the ABS-CBN's information and entertainment group of companies," the bill reads.

"The cessation of its operations would [also] imperil the Philippine advertising industry who has historically invested up to 75 percent of its P151 billion business into TV," it said.

Shutting down the country's largest network will also affect tax collections and investor confidence, the senators said, noting that ABS-CBN has "contributed up to P70.5 billion" between 2003 and 2020.

"Without the significant revenue stream the television network provides, government would be hard-pressed to find funding for basic services like education, healthcare and security," it said.

"The non-renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN may affect investor confidence and get in the way of promoting diversity in the economy and fostering competition," it added.

The senators who authored the bill are as follows:

- Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto
- Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri
- Minority Leader Franklin Drilon
- Sen. Sonny Angara
- Sen. Nancy Binay
- Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian
- Sen. Richard Gordon
- Sen. Risa Hontiveros 
- Sen. Lito Lapid
- Sen. Manny Pacquiao
- Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan
- Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Jr. 
- Sen. Joel Villanueva

ABS-CBN halted its broadcast operations last week after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease and desist order contrary to its commitment in March and despite directives from the House and Senate to allow the company to continue operations while Congress deliberates on its renewal bid.

The Senate adopted a separate resolution urging the NTC to withdraw its cease and desist order against ABS-CBN, citing an NTC memo that automatically extended the validity of franchises and permits expiring during Luzon's enhanced community quarantine.