Lagman: Media networks ‘taking sides is not a franchise violation per se’
MANILA, Philippines — Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Wednesday said media networks “taking sides” is not necessarily a violation of their franchise.
Lagman made the remark after House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano issued a statement claiming that ABS-CBN took sides in the 2010 and 2016 elections.
“Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano appears to be mistaken when he implied that since ABS-CBN ‘took sides in the 2010 and 2016 elections’, the renewal of its franchise is imperiled,” Lagman said in a statement,
The Bicol congressman has been vocal about his support to the renewal of ABS-CBN’s legislative franchise and even came out with House Resolution No. 639 that presses the lower chamber’s committee on legislative franchises to immediately hear the pending bills on the franchise renewal of the country’s largest media network.
As of February 17, the resolution has already gathered the support of 91 lawmakers.
“Granting that the network took sides, taking sides is not a franchise violation per se,” the lawmaker added.
According to Lagman, freedom of the press affords media outlets “sufficient latitude to telecast and broadcast their sentiments supporting or opposing certain advocacies, issues, and personalities.”
“The limitation is that the telecast or broadcast must not be libelous or must not constitute a criminal offense,” Lagman explained.
Citing ABS-CBN’s franchise, Lagman said ABS-CBN is not prohibited to take sides in its exercise of press freedom and freedom of expression.
The legislator said the franchise only states that ABS-CBN is enjoined “not (to) use its stations for the broadcasting of obscene and indecent language, speech, act or scene, or the dissemination of deliberately false information or willful misrepresentation to the detriment of the public interest, or to incite, encourage, or assist in subversive or treasonable acts.”
“Aside from providing the public with information, public service, and entertainment, a broadcasting network is a catalyst for the formation of differing opinions,” Lagman pointed out.
The lawmaker also compared the situation to that of the United States wherein television outlets are allowed to broadcast their own biases.
“Critical commentary or reasonable bias is protected by the expansive veil of freedom of the press and free speech. It is tolerable and not sanctionable,” Lagman stressed.
In a Facebook post on Monday night, Cayetano addressed arguments that the issue of ABS-CBN’s franchise is an attack on the freedom of the press.
Cayetano said the case of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal “has not, nor has it ever been, purely an issue of free speech or freedom of the press.”
The Speaker also mentioned ABS-CBN’s coverage of the 2010 and 2016 elections.
“Can anyone honestly say, after watching the coverage of the network during the 2010 and 2016 elections, that ABS-CBN did not take sides and favor any candidate? Or that personalities and politicians who through the years have had a strong affinity with the station do not receive undue advantage during campaign season?” Cayetano asked.
This move, according to Cayetano, is prohibited by the Fair Elections Act.
Republic Act No. 3846 requires television and radio broadcasting companies to secure a franchise from the government before they are allowed to operate. It is Congress that will decide whether to extend the franchise to public utilities, such as the media.
Cayetano has previously said that congressional hearings to tackle the matter will be conducted “at the appropriate time”.
Edited by KGA
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