MANILA--The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Monday admitted that ABS-CBN Corp. did not violate the terms of its old franchise when it introduced multiple programs through its TVplus digital boxes.
Digital television technology allows broadcast franchise holders to provide up to 6 programs using a single 6 MHz frequency, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba told a joint congressional hearing on ABS-CBN's application for a new operating franchise.
"Insofar as 6 programs in 1 channel is concerned, okay po yun (they're okay)," he said.
Asked by Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones if the network violated its franchise with its multiple TVplus programs, Cordoba replied: "Wala po (There's none)."
A group of cable TV operators showed up at the hearing to oppose ABS-CBN's franchise application, insisting on a supposed "one franchise, one channel" rule.
Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin asked Cordoba to clarify if ABS-CBN's previous 25-year franchise contained any provision that prohibited the operation of multiple programs.
Cordoba said digital TV was not yet available when the franchise was granted in 1995 through Republic Act No. 7966. "Baka hindi po yun na-forsee ng RA 7966," he said.
(RA 7966 may not have foreseen it.)
Aragones noted that ABS-CBN's previous franchise mentioned "frequency" and not "channel."
Cordoba agreed and explained how advances in digital TV technology allowed the more efficient use of an existing frequency.
Congressmen blocking ABS-CBN's application for a new franchise have accused the network of illegally introducing pay-per-view features in its TVplus units.
Cordoba said the NTC had asked the network not to offer PPV until it released guidelines for the conditional access system.
Garbin asked: "But if there's no regulation, would you consider that there's a violation of any law? An activity that has not been regulated, would you consider that there's a violation even if it's not regulated?"
Cordoba said ABS-CBN should have waited for the implementing rules from NTC.
If found to have indeed committed a violation, ABS-CBN can be fined P200 for every unauthorized offer of PPV, under the Public Service Act, he said.