NTC orders shutdown of ABS-CBN subsidiary Sky Cable, TV Plus channels

Marje Pelayo   •   July 1, 2020   •   373

MANILA, Philippines — The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Tuesday (June 30) hit media giant ABS-CBN Corp. with another big blow after it issued another cease and desist order to shutdown the station’s subsidiary channels.

The orders signed by NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba covered the operation of Sky Cable and  the network’s other channels on TVPlus.

The regulatory body argued that the other platforms should also be closed because these were also covered by the CDO the agency issued on May 5.

Aside from the shutdown, the NTC also gave Sky Cable 10 days to explain why the radio frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled for lack of franchise.

“Upon the expiration of RA (Republic Act) 7969, Sky Cable Corporation no longer has a valid and subsisting congressional franchise to install, operate or maintain a Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) Service,” the order read.

Likewise, the NTC ordered the network to refund its subscribers “those amounts representing unconsumed prepaid loads, deposits on subscriber equipment and devices, deposit or advance payment in monthly charges for postpaid subscribers, if any, charges collected from new applicants for DBS service, and other charges collected.”

In a statement, Sky Cable said it will comply with the NTC order.

“Sky Cable Corporation complies with the cease and desist order (CDO) issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) stopping the company from operating its direct broadcast satellite service immediately,” the firm said in a statement.

“We will refund all unconsumed prepaid loads and advance postpaid payments. We appeal to our SKYdirect subscribers and partners for understanding and patience as we undergo this process,” it added.

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While ABS-CBN argued that there was no mention of Channel 43 in the May 5 shutdown order, the network immediately stopped its digital TV transmission in Metro Manila using the said channel in compliance with the alias CDO recently issued by the NTC.

“While channel 43 is not mentioned in NTC’s cease and desist order (CDO) of May 5, 2020, and it is ABS-CBN’s informed understanding that channel 43 is not included in the CDO, digital TV transmission in Metro Manila using channel 43 will cease tonight (June 30), consistent with the intent of the alias CDO,” ABS-CBN said.

This means operations of digital channels Teleradyo, Jeepney TV, Yey!, Asianovela Channel, CineMo and KBO will also cease.

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For now, ABS-CBN awaits the Supreme Court’s decision on a petition it filed against the NTC’s cease and desist order. MNP (with inputs from Vincent Arboleda)

Palace remains ‘neutral’ on House rejection of ABS-CBN franchise bid

Marje Pelayo   •   July 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque reiterated on Friday (July 10) that the Palace remains neutral on the issue of ABS-CBN franchise renewal.

In a statement after the House Committee on Legislative Franchises rejected the network’s franchise application, Roque said House Committee decision is a “sole prerogative of Congress” that the Executive Branch recognizes.

“The Palace has maintained a neutral stance on the issue as it respects the separation of powers between the two co-equal branches of government,” he said. 

“Much as we want to work with the aforesaid media network, we have to abide by the resolution of the House committee,” he added. 

Voting 70-11, the Committee chaired by Rep. Franz Alvarez adopted the resolution submitted by the Technical Working Group (TWG) rejecting the network’s bid for another 25-year franchise. 

READ: House prepares to vote on ABS-CBN franchise renewal

For his part, ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak in a statement said they ‘are deeply hurt’ by the House Committee’s decision saying, “We believe that we have been rendering a service that is meaningful and valuable to the Filipino public.”

Nevertheless, Katigbak said the network expressed its gratitude to the Committee for giving them the chance to air their side on all the issues and allegations raised against them.

“We remain committed to public service, and we hope to find other ways to achieve our mission.  Together with our employees and our audiences all over the world, we share in your sadness over this setback,” he said. 

“We look forward to the day when we can again reunite under our broadcast,” he further said.

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ABS-CBN to stay off-air after House panel junks bid for new 25-year franchise

Marje Pelayo   •   July 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representatives (HOR) Committee on Legislative Franchises on Friday (July 10) junked ABS-CBN Corporation’s bid for a 25-year franchise.

Presided by Committee Chairman Rep. Franz Alvarez, the lawmakers voted on whether or not to adopt the report of the Committee’s Technical Working Group (TWG) “denying the application of ABS-CBN Corp. to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain radio and broadcasting stations in the country.”

Of the 85 lawmakers, mostly present via Zoom, 70 voted Yes in adopting the resolution; 11 opposed to it; two inhibited and only one abstained.

“The resolution to deny ABS-CBN franchise application is hereby adopted pursuant to Section 49 of the Rules of the House of Representatives,” Alvarez said. 

“All House bills and House resolutions relative to the grant or renewal of the franchise application of ABS-CBN corporation are hereby laid on the table,” he added. 

Rep. Jose Antonio Sy- Alvarado followed to clarify the decision. 

“Ano po ang ibig sabihin ng laid on the table, Mr. Chair? Parang na-kill na siya? [What does this mean, Mr. Chair? It’s like it’s ‘killed’ already]?” he asked to which Alvarez replied yes.

“Ibig sabihin po itong usapin patungkol sa pag-renew ng application ng ABS-CBN ay hindi lang po isinantabi kundi ito po ay tinapos na nga ngayong araw na ito, tama po ba [Meaning, this discussion about the renewal of application of ABS-CBN is not just being stalled but it is totally over today, right]?” he clarified further to which the Committee chair approved.

“That is correct,” Alvarez replied.

Among those who voted No to the resolution, meaning they were in favor of the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, were House Minority Leader Benny Abante and Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate.

Following this development, media giant ABS-CBN will remain off-air while it is given 24 hours to appeal the decision.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in May issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN after its franchise lapsed on May 4.

On June 30, the network was hit with another blow as the NTC issued two separate orders shutting down ABS-CBN’s subsidiary channels Sky Direct and its digital channels on TVPlus.

READ: NTC orders shutdown of ABS-CBN subsidiary Sky Cable, TV Plus channels

This is the second time ABS-CBN was told to go off the air.

The first time was on September 21, 1972, when then-President Ferdinand Marcos put the entire nation under Martial law.

It returned to the airwaves in 1986, months after the EDSA People Power revolution ended Marcos’ 21-year regime. –MNP (with inputs from Rey Pelayo)

House prepares to vote on ABS-CBN franchise renewal

Marje Pelayo   •   July 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The House of Representative (HOR) on Thursday (July 9) wrapped up its deliberations on the proposed franchise renewal of media network ABS-CBN Corporation. 

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate presented the summation or arguments as to why the network deserves to stay while Sagip Party-list Representative and Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta presented the arguments on behalf of those who oppose.

Several lawmakers also stood to share their opinions on the issue. 

“I say, Mr. Chairman, that a ‘yes’ vote to stop the franchise is a vote to stop perpetuation of an oligarch state. An oligarchy that continues to suppress our people,” argued Congressman Mike Defensor, vice chair of Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.

“I implore my honorable colleagues to grant ABS-CBN a new franchise. Let us allow the company to partner with us in serving the Filipino people. Let us allow the company to correct the mistakes and hold them accountable so there will be a clear finding of any violation of the relevant laws,” defended Baguio City Rep. Mark Go.

Issues that were deliberated in the past 12 hearings included the circumstances way back after the EDSA Revolution when the ownership of ABS-CBN was transferred to the Lopezes; the 50-year limit of the ABS-CBN franchise; issues on the citizenship of the network’s chairman Eugenio Gabriel ‘Gabby Lopez; the issuance of Philippine depositary receipts; labor and tax issues; and allegations of the network’s “biased” reporting.

During the final hearing, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano expressed some points now that the deliberations on the franchise renewal is over. 

“So this is what we will have to decide: Totoo bang may isang korporasyon na pinoprotektahan ang interes at ginagamit ang media para sabihing press freedom?  O totoo bang may mga nagagalit lang dahil tinatamaan sa news nila?” he said.

Deliberations on the matter have been completed and the members of the House Committees on Legislative Franchise and Good Governance and Public Accountability are set to vote on whether or not to grant ABS-CBN more years in the business. 

Should it pass the committee level, it would be endorsed to the plenary and then to the Senate for further scrutiny.

If it passes the Senate, that’s the time it will be forwarded to President Rodrigo Duterte for signature. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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