Nine senators move to extend ABS-CBN franchise

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri | Senate photo

SEVERAL Philippine senators filed a concurrent resolution urging the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to allow network giant ABS-CBN to operate while its renewal bid remains pending in the 18th Congress.

The Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 7 stated that NTC should issue a provisional authority for ABS-CBN Corp. “to operate under the terms of its existing franchise pending final determination of the renewal” of its license to operate.

Among the resolution’s authors were Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Senators Sonny Angara, Nancy Binay, Sherwin Gatchalian, Lito Lapid, Manny Pacquiao, Grace Poe and Joel Villanueva.

Earlier, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon filed a similar concurrent resolution, while Senator Ramon B. Revilla, Jr. filed Senate Bill No. 1374 to extend the franchise until 2020.

“The non-renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise will result in the loss of thousands of jobs as the network has over 11,000 employees,” the resolution read.

It added, “The removal of a market leader such as ABS-CBN would have a significant impact, not only on competition within the broadcasting industry, but also on the economy as a whole.”

The resolution also pointed out previous cases where Congress did not need to pass a concurrent resolution to allow the extended operation of franchise holders, citing GMA 7, TV5 and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines as examples.

This, after the NTC asked Congress to pass the concurrent resolution mandating it to provide a provisional authority to ABS-CBN, saying that it was necessary considering the objection the network was facing.

Several bills seeking ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal have been filed in the House of Representatives, but they have yet to be tackled by the chamber’s franchise committee.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, for his part, denied that the House was delaying the deliberation of the network’s franchise renewal bid.

He insisted that the delay resulted from other concerns that hit the country since January, like the Taal volcanic eruption and the coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak.

“That’s why I keep saying ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal is very important, but it’s not urgent since the network will not go off the air. So, we are asking for some understanding,” Cayetano said. 

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