House panel gets nearly 200 ABS-CBN petitions ahead of franchise hearing


Posted at May 26 2020 12:28 PM | Updated as of May 26 2020 12:55 PM

House panel gets nearly 200 ABS-CBN petitions ahead of franchise hearing 1
A woman tears up at the ABS-CBN newsroom during a broadcast of TV Patrol after the National Telecommunications Commission ordered the network to go off air, May 5, 2020. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The House legislative franchises committee has received nearly 200 petitions for and against the grant of a fresh 25-year broadcast franchise to ABS-CBN Corp. 

The 181 petitions pushing for a license to operate for the country's top broadcaster cited the following points, according to a matrix of the committee: 

  • public service in reporting; 
  • freedom of expression and of the press;
  • labor opportunities; and 
  • fair market competition. 

ABS-CBN's shutdown since May 5 due to its stalled franchise sends a chilling effect on other media outlets, petitioners argued. 

The news and entertainment giant also provides relief goods to survivors of calamities and livelihood to partner organizations and cooperatives, rebuilds school buildings, and gives out scholarships, the petitions said. 

ABS-CBN gives its regular employees financial assistance and other benefits which are beyond what is prescribed by law. 

The network is also a partner of various universities in Manila for recruitment activities, job fairs and symposia, and on-the-job training, said the petitioners. 

Eight petitions meanwhile opposed the new franchise for ABS-CBN due to its 2016 election coverage, supposed foreign ownership, labor practices, and alleged franchise violations like illegal pay-per-view. 

The 65-year-old media outfit has denied these accusations in various fora. 

The House franchise committee on Tuesday afternoon will start deliberations on bills for ABS-CBN's 25-year franchise, about a week after it dropped a proposed 5-month provisional license. 

The National Telecommunications Office on May 5 forced ABS-CBN off air, a day after its franchise expired while bills for its renewal stalled in Congress. 

The NTC's action came after Solicitor General Jose Calida warned its leaders they could face graft charges if they gave ABS-CBN a provisional permit. Regulators, under oath, earlier told lawmakers the network could operate until 2022. 

Calida last week denied that he meddled with the NTC's decision. He said he would skip Tuesday's franchise hearing due to the "sub judice" rule, which restricts comments that might influence the court. 

The government's chief lawyer in February asked the Supreme Court in a quo warranto petition to nullify ABS-CBN's franchise. 

Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.