NTC to stop ABS-CBN on Channel 43, TV Plus
MANILA, Philippines — No more “TV Patrol” and “Ang Probinsyano” on TV Plus?
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) dealt ABS-CBN a new blow on Monday, telling lawmakers it would stop the shuttered media network from airing its shows via digital channel on its TV Plus service.
NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba told a joint House panel the regulatory body would follow the Solicitor General’s recommendation to issue a follow-up order directing ABS-CBN to cease broadcasting on Channel 43 on a frequency owned by an affiliate, Amcara Broadcasting Network.
He said ABS-CBN was effectively operating on an expired license by using Amcara’s franchise.
Though ABS-CBN heeded NTC’s May 5 order to stop its radio and TV operations, it has resumed airing some of its shows, including its flagship newscast and prime time series, on cable and satellite TV channels not covered by the 25-year franchise, which expired on May 4.
That includes its TV Plus set-top boxes, which carry other free-to-air channels as well as ABS-CBN’s pay-per-view movie service.
ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak appealed for reconsideration upon hearing the NTC’s move, saying the decision would affect millions of households with TV Plus boxes. There are 11 million homes with either a TV Plus or Sky Cable subscription, or about 55 million people, he said.
Cordoba told members of the House committees on legislative franchises and good government that Channel 43 was already covered by the NTC’s earlier order shutting down ABS-CBN on May 5, but the latter kept airing on the frequency anyway.
He said he had sought guidance from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) about whether to stop ABS-CBN from continuing its digital broadcast, considering the latter had already filed suit against the NTC before the Supreme Court.
“We wanted to be more prudent, so we asked for guidance from the OSG, and we received their guidance only this morning. The OSG said we were right, it was covered, and we could issue an alias cease-and-desist order,” Cordoba told the panel.
But some lawmakers were not pleased that the NTC did not act soon enough.
Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla, a vice chair of the panel, said Cordoba was “ripe” for a graft case in the Office of the Ombudsman for effectively allowing ABS-CBN to operate with an expired franchise.
But Katigbak noted that the NTC had permitted other companies to continue their operations so long as a franchise application was pending.
He also argued that the original NTC order did not include Channel 43 among the channels that should cease operation.
Katigbak clarified that ABS-CBN did not own Amcara. The network’s lawyers later said ABS-CBN used to have a 49-percent stake in the company until it divested all its holdings in January 2019.
“Amcara is not owned by ABS-CBN. We don’t have any ownership in Amcara today. The reason you’re going to see is we have a block-time arrangement with Amcara,” Katigbak said.
But Remulla said that was just an “excuse.”
“They’re using public frequency to broadcast ABS-CBN content. They’re now conducting an illegal operation. For the past eight weeks, their operation has been illegal,” he said.
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