House 'ready to decide' on ABS-CBN franchise by August

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 20 2020 12:18 PM

ABS-CBN employees wearing protective face masks work in a control room at the broadcast network's headquarters, following orders by telecoms regulator to cease its operations in Quezon City, May 6, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA - Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday said the House of Representatives would be "ready to decide" on a new 25-year franchise for ABS-CBN Corp. by August, the same month that the network said it might "consider" retrenchment of its 11,000-strong workforce. 

The Lower House stopped deliberations for the proposed 5-month provisional permit for the broadcaster and opted to hear bills seeking to give it a 25-year franchise. 

Deliberations by the House franchises committee will continue during the Congress recess starting in June, said Cayetano. 

"They will not stop until they are finished so that no one can say we’re stopping the process or dragging our feet," he told ABS-CBN News. 

"I foresee that the hearings would not go beyond July, and by August, after President Duterte’s SONA (State of the Nation Address), we should be ready to decide," he added. 

Lawmakers will hold 2 or 3 hearings per week to tackle "no more than 10 issues" related to the franchise. Some witnesses and resource persons would be required to physically appear before the committee, provided social distancing and other health protocols are observed, he said. 

House Committee on Legislative Franchises chair Franz Alvarez said the franchise hearing is set on May 26, 9:30 a.m.

"The hearings must be fair, impartial, comprehensive, and thorough. All voices must be heard and all issues for and against will be discussed…this will require a lot of time - time we do not have. And so, there will be sacrifices on our part if we hope to finish this without delay," said Cayetano. 

"For those who are calling for an outright approval or denial, I ask that you suspend your extreme views until all the facts have been presented, and all the testimonies have been heard," he said.

ABS-CBN said it has been losing P30-35 million in advertising revenues daily since regulators forced it off air last May 5, a day after its franchise expired. 

The 65-year-old media outfit promised it "would not take away any jobs for 3 months." However, it may "consider" retrenching workers by August if it fails to resume broadcast soon, President and CEO Carlo Katigbak told senators. 

The National Telecommunication Commission told lawmakers in March that it would let the country's top broadcaster operate provisionally beyond the May 4 expiration of its license, while bills for its franchise renewal stalled in Congress for years. 

But days after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned NTC officials that they could face graft charges if they gave ABS-CBN a provisional permit, the regulator ordered the outfit to stop broadcasting. 

news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.