PHILIPPINE: ABS-CBN, goodbye frequencies

"It shall be the government who should be given the first option to utilize them" stated Rodrigo Duderte, the President of the Philippines
“It shall be the government who should be given the first option to utilize them” stated Rodrigo Duderte, the President of the Philippines

The ABS-CBN frequencies, shut down on May 5th, 2020, will be used by a television station for distance learning lessons given that Manila is back in lockdown (27 million people are in quarantine) and Covid-19 is running rife in the rest of the country. It is not clear how this will be put into action and ABS-CBN has wisely offered the use of their infrastructure and educational programmes produced over the last twenty years. What is going to happen? This is the fourth episode of the soap opera…
Here are the previous events:

THE PHILIPPINES: Parliament refuses to renew licence and ABS-CBN appeals

ABS-CBN is continuing to operate on the internet with its news sites, TV streaming channels and pay TV
ABS-CBN is continuing to operate on the internet with its news sites, TV streaming channels and pay TV

The hard line taken by President Rodrigo Duderte has the upper hand. Parliament has refused to renew ABS-CBN’s broadcasting licence, that was due to last for another 25 years. The first problems began in March 2020 (we spoke about this here). The reasons for the dispute were unfavourable news coverage of the president and not broadcasting election commercials. Radio and TV frequencies have been turned off since May 5th, 2020, while awaiting a decision (we spoke about this here). The multimedia group that owns 16 radio stations and employs 11,000 people) has appealed.

The Philippines: ABS-CBN shut down on May 5th, 2020

ABS-CBN to go off air in compliance with NTC order, ABS-CBN News
ABS-CBN to go off air in compliance with NTC order, ABS-CBN News

President Duterte had promised to make life difficult for the ‘unwelcome’ radio/television group, although later he seemed to have changed track (which we spoke about in one of our recent articles).  The multimedia group, which has 16 radio stations and 11,000 employees, hoped to renew its franchise temporarily, but the NTC opposed it. The National Communications Commission (NTC) is the authority that regulates the media sector.  Hence, since Tuesday transmission is only continuing on the web and pay television channels, whilst waiting for an extension to the end of June 2022.

The Philippines: If this TV is inconvenient maybe I’ll shut it down… or maybe not

News Release, Republic of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte
News Release: It’s up to Lower House to tackle ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, says President Duterte

After the Philippines President Rodrigo Roa Duterte told the press his intention to stop the renewal of the ABS-CBN TV station’s licence in March 2020, he accepted the apologies of the television network. It is considered being critical of the government after broadcasting a negative speech and not airing his campaign ads.

On February 26th, 2020, answering some journalists questions during an event held by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the President said that he’s going to leave the decision of the renewal entirely to the Congress.

‘We acted properly’

ABS-CBN grateful humbled by Duterte acceptance of apology, article
ABS-CBN News: ABS-CBN ‘grateful, humbled’ by Duterte acceptance of apology

In a statement on February 27th, 2020, ABS-CBN took the opportunity of thanking the President and to explain their version of what had happened: During 2016, a video of Duterte swearing, and some children asking the President if his actions were right.

During a hearing on the franchising’s conformity in the Senate, Carlo Katigbak (CEO of ABS-CBN group) told that he has ‘only respected the laws and the broadcasting regulations for political ads’ and that the TV was unable to air Duterte’s ads due to the limit in broadcasting time, at a value of approximately 7 million Philippine peso (PHP) (approximately US $ 138.000). The TV station immediately gave back 4 million PHP, meanwhile the return of the remaining 2.6 million ($ 51.000) has been delayed by the President himself: Duterte, accepting the apologies, told the TV to give the money to charity.

A group that covers TV and radio (both AM and FM)

Homepage of Mor - My only radio, Philippines
MOR – My only radio, Philippines

ABS-CBN is a multimedia group born in 1967 by the fusion of Alto Broadcasting System (ABS, founded in 1946) and Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN, founded in 1956). The company manages various TV networks such as ABS-CBN, which provides 50 to 60% of the turnover, and ABS-CBN Sports + Action. Radio includes regional stations like Radyo Patrol (medium wave) and My Only Radio, with 16 FM transmitters in the whole country. The activities of this group are manyfold: They include broadcasting of international TV channels and pay TV, a film production company, a record label and a publishing house.

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