MANILA--A number of congressmen on Monday pushed to shut down ABS-CBN's programs still airing on digital platforms, citing the network's broadcast franchise which they allowed to expire without acting on its long-pending application for a new one.
ABS-CBN's operating franchise expired last May 4 while Sky Cable's franchise ended earlier on March 30, said Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta as the House of Representatives resumed hearings on the network's effort return on the air.
Marcoleta called attention to ABS-CBN's continued broadcast through Channel 43 on its TVplus units and SkyCable wireless service.
"Nandito po tayo para himayin, kino-consider po natin kung bibigyan pa o hindi ng prangkisa ang ABS-CBN, pero walang puknat po nilang naipapalabas din naman ang kanilang mga programa sa dalawang plataporma na aking binabanggit gayong pareho nang paso ang kanilang prangkisa," he said.
In a previous hearing, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) cited a Corazon Aquino-era executive order which said that cable TV operators would no longer need a broadcast franchise.
"Lumalabas po sa EO ay parang tinanggal po ng EO ang requirement ng prangkisa para po sa mga cable TV operators," NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba had told congressmen.
Marcoleta on Monday said Cordoba should resign "because he is not doing his job" when he allowed ABS-CBN's programs on TVplus and Sky Cable's wireless service.
ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak appealed for "fairness" from Congress, saying legislators in the past allowed other media companies to continue operations while their applications for a new franchise were pending.
During the first hearing on ABS-CBN, congressmen also asked the NTC to allow the network to remain on the air pending decision on its franchise application, Katigbak noted.
TVplus and Sky Cable services have a combined reach of 11 million households or 55 million people.
"Ang appeal po namin sa Kongreso is in the spirit of fairness, please consider that you have allowed other companies to operate before even after their franchises had expired for so long as Congress continues to hear their application for renewal," Katigbak said.
Before its application for a new franchise came under scrutiny following repeated threats from President Rodrigo Duterte to shut down the network, ABS-CBN was lauded for complying with the government's shift to digital TV technology.
A key component in this transmission, which began in 2013 and set to be completed by 2023, is the availability of digital set-top boxes, such as ABS-CBN's TVplus.
“In the face of changing governments, despite natural disasters, and amid rapidly evolving technologies, ABS-CBN remains steadfast in its commitment to serve the Filipino,” according to the Framework of the DTTB Migration Plan dated October 2017.
“The organization is continuously evolving to provide better service through radio, free TV, digital terrestrial TV, cable TV, film, movie, music, publishing, online, events, licensed products, cash remittance, and various advocacies.”
DTTB refers to digital terrestrial television broadcasting.