Solon files bill seeking new franchise for ABS-CBN
MANILA, Philippines — A bill that would provide a new franchise for network giant ABS-CBN, which stopped airing free television and radio programs after its legislative franchise expired in May 2020, has been filed in the House of Representatives.
House Bill No. 431 authored by Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Pimentel seeks to allow ABS-CBN to operate again, noting that its news and public affairs division plays a crucial role in the dissemination of relevant information.
ABS-CBN ceased broadcasting on May 5, 2020, after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) did not allow it to operate due to questions about its franchise’s validity. Congress meanwhile thumbed down a new franchise for the network, forcing it to operate online and through blocktime partnerships.
“The news and public affairs program of ABS-CBN serve as the only avenue for crucial and relevant information for a great number of our countrymen. It is the source of information in the most far-flung areas of our country, keeping its far-reaches up-to-date with the relevant happenings,” Pimentel said in the bill’s explanatory note.
The bill was filed as early as June 30, but reporters did not get a copy of the proposal until it was uploaded to the House of Representatives website.
READ: NTC orders ABS-CBN to stop broadcast operations | House, not only NTC, also at fault in ABS-CBN shutdown – FLAG
NTC back then said that while other networks were allowed to continue operating despite their respective franchises still being deliberated on, ABS-CBN could not be given the same privilege as there were concerns about the validity of their franchise.
In an interview with ABS-radio CBN’s station DZMM hours before the network was shut down, NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios admitted that the questions regarding the franchise’s validity stemmed from the quo warranto petition filed by former solicitor general and current Commission on Audit Chair Jose Calida.
READ: NTC exec admits ABS-CBN shutdown order borne of ‘questions’ on its franchise validity | NTC says OSG’s quo warranto case was factor in CDO vs ABS-CBN
Many people in rural areas felt they had missed out on critical news, especially reporting on disasters, when ABS-CBN was shut down because its Regional Stations no longer broadcast.
Former vice president Leni Robredo said in December 2021 that Typhoon Odette victims shared the same sentiment that the absence of ABS-CBN’s wide coverage during typhoons and other calamities also made it difficult for them to attract help or assistance.
READ: Netizens claim some folks unaware of Typhoon Ambo due to absence of ABS-CBN | Robredo: Folk in Odette-hit areas miss coverage of ABS-CBN on the tragedy
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