MANILA - The World Broadcasting Unions appealed Wednesday to the Philippine government and lawmakers to renew ABS-CBN's franchise to "restore the free flow of information to Filipinos" especially as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawmakers' decision to reject ABS-CBN's bid for a fresh license "puts at risk the employment of more than 11,000 workers and has drawn accusations of an attack against press freedom," the international organization said in a statement.
The broadcast network is "a vital source of information for tens of millions of Filipinos," said the group that serves as coordinating body for broadcasting unions who represent broadcaster networks worldwide.
The WBU said the Philippines is among countries "hard-hit" by the pandemic and suffered as well from its first typhoon for the year, Ambo, that prompted hundreds of thousands to flee their homes while observing physical distancing due to the virus.
"At times like these – and always – citizens depend on broadcast media for basic information, essential for their survival. This must not be denied to them," the WBU said.
"The closure of ABS-CBN is a matter of concern, not just in the Philippines but internationally."
Established in 1992, the WBU groups the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, the Arab States Broadcasting Union, the African Union of Broadcasting, the Caribbean Broadcasting Union, the European Broadcasting Union, the International Association of Broadcasting, and the North American Broadcasters Association.
The Committee on Legislative Franchises of the House of Representatives last July 10 rejected the new franchise application of ABS-CBN in fulfillment of President Rodrigo Duterte's earlier threats, and despite relevant government agencies clearing the company of alleged irregularities and delinquencies.
On May 5, it was forced off the air by the National Telecommunications Commission over the expiry on May 4 of its old franchise, although it previously committed to allow the network to continue operations until Congress resolves its new franchise application.
Two alias cease and desist orders were also served late last month by the NTC against ABS-CBN's digital broadcast in Metro Manila and its sister company Sky Cable's direct broadcast satellite service nationwide.
Opposition lawmakers have asked House leaders to allow plenary deliberation and voting on ABS-CBN's franchise.
news.abs-cbn.com is the official news website of ABS-CBN Corp.