Monday, February 10, 2020

ABS-CBN's franchise

The government's lawyer ran to the high court with a "very urgent" motion requesting to cancel ABS-CBN's legislative franchise weeks before it lapses. Calida claimed that the Lopez-owned network committed violations in the terms set by Congress when it approved ABS-CBN's franchise in 1995.

The quo warranto petition was lodged against ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiary, ABS-CBN Convergence Inc.

Calida said he wants to put an end to "highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN" which went unnoticed for years. For one, he said the network allowed foreign investors to "take part in the ownership of a Philippine mass media entity" despite being prohibited by the Constitution.

This proves that this government will do whatever it takes to shut down a network that the President doesn't agree with. Freedom of speech is at stake here. If you silence the media, the people are in peril because they will lose a platform where they can get the information that they need

ABS-CBN's franchise will expire on March 30, and Pimentel's House Bill 5608 is one of several bills seeking to give the network another 25-year franchise.

But ABS-CBN can still go on air even after its franchise expires in March, a media expert said Tuesday.

The House of Representatives has yet to hear several bills seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise, which the government's top lawyer asked the Supreme Court on Monday to revoke.

The decision on whether to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise for another 25 years will ultimately depend on Congress and the president, who has repeatedly threatened to shut down the network for failing to air a political ad in the 2016 elections, among other issues.

President Rodrigo Duterte has consistently ranted against ABS-CBN, often complaining that the network did not air his political ads despite payment during the campaign.

As Duterte badgers the Lopezes to sell ABS-CBN, speculations mount that the President's campaign donor, Dennis Uy, may be a potential buyer. No deal has been made.

It recounted how in recent years, the Philippines has witnessed multiple tactics from the government to attack the media – from the legal harassment of ABS-CBN and Rappler to the spread of false claims against groups such as Vera Files.

Infrawatch PH, an infrastructure-oriented thinktank, pointed out that Calida’s complaints, especially concerning ABS-CBN's use of Philippine Depository Receipts, can be resolved in franchise renewal proceedings in Congress.

Reminding the public of the upcoming anniversary of the 1986 EDSA revolution this month, the UP CMC asked Filipinos ensure that the freedoms regained 34 years ago will remain.

"Government actions such as [the filing of the quo warranto petition] show us the volatility of this hard-won freedom, the need to remain vigilant so as to not allow history repeat itself," it said.

As many as 11,000 jobs are on the line in a possible ABS-CBN closure.

The NUJP has been holding weekly Friday protests to call on the government to renew the franchise. It's also leading a signature campaign against the ABS-CBN shutdown, which will be submitted to Congress for review.

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