Law does not require broadcast firms to secure legislative franchise — Pichay
MANILA, Philippines — Amid the ABS-CBN franchise issue, a lawmaker on Tuesday said that Republic Act No. 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of 1995 does not require broadcast companies to seek a legislative franchise before they could operate.
House Deputy Speaker Prospero Pichay Jr. said that only public telecommunications entities need to meet the legislative franchise requirement.
“The law is very clear. R.A. 7925 states that only public telecommunications entities are required to obtain a legislative franchise. Inexplicably, the law does not require broadcast entities to seek a legislative franchise,” Pichay said in a statement.
“Clearly, there is a gap in the law because only public telecommunications entities are required to obtain a franchise which excludes those persons engaged in broadcasting companies,” he added.
Pichay explained that under R.A. 7925, telecommunications and broadcast enterprises are defined separately. This means that the definition of a public telecommunications entity does not include broadcasting, “which is a separate and distinct activity,” he said.
“Neither does the definition of franchise include broadcast entities,” Pichay further said.
In a move to correct this, Pichay said he filed on Monday House Bill No. 6680 which seeks to amend R.A. 7925 to include broadcast companies among those who need to secure a legislative franchise before operations.
Among Pichay’s proposed amendments is renaming R.A. 7925 to “Public Telecommunications and Broadcasting Act of the Philippines” as well as the inclusion of broadcasting entities in the law’s definition of a franchise.
Pichay also proposed to amend Section 16 of R.A. 7925 to specifically state that: “No person shall commence or conduct the business of being a public telecommunications entity and a broadcast (television and radio) entity without first obtaining a franchise.”
Under the proposed transitory clause to Section 16, broadcast entities with pending applications and expired or expiring franchises would be given five years to comply with the measure’s provisions.
Eleven bills seeking the renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN remain pending before the House committee on legislative franchises —the earliest of which was filed in July 2019.
So far, the committee on legislative franchises has only held one hearing to discuss the matter. But during this meeting, no one from ABS-CBN or from the opposition was invited.
Instead, the lawmakers decided to first draft the ground rules for the formal deliberations of the franchise renewal bid of ABS-CBN, which Cayetano earlier deemed to be necessary so that the hearings would not be a “circus.”
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