- ABS-CBN has only a month to renew its franchise.
- Congress has yet to start deliberating ABS-CBN franchise renewal.
Just a little over a month and ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal seems to be ticking down to the last few minutes.
With the 11 bills still not enacted by the House of Representatives, the future of ABS-CBN continues to be uncertain.
Expiring on March 30, 2020, ABS-CBN will have to cease operations if ever they failed to secure another 25-year license to operate.
While House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano assured that there will be enough time to tackle ABS-CBN’s impending renewal, the Committee of Legislative Franchises has yet to put on their agenda the ABS-CBN franchise renewal bills.
“We have enough time. Yung budget na P4.1 trillion natapos natin ng isang buwan, yun pa kayang franchise na siguro sobrang… yung issues, two-three hearings, sobrang exhaustive na nun,” he said.
In the latest report from Congress, the Committee is set to have a hearing on franchise renewal February 5, 2020, but it only includes 5 media companies namely FBS Radio Network, Century Communications Marketing Center, Caceres Broadcasting Network, and Philand Communications Network Corporation leaving ABS-CBN still stalled.
For several weeks now, journalist groups led by National Union of Journalist in the Philippines have staged Black Friday protests in several parts of Quezon City to urge the Congress to immediately act on the pending bills seeking ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal.
In a statement from one of their rallies, NUJP said Congress should do what is right and renew the network’s franchise.
“We call on Congress to do what is right and immediately pass the bill to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise.” NUJ said.
They’ve also called on Filipinos to support democracy by supporting calls for ABS-CBN franchise renewal.
“We call on the community of independent Filipino journalists and on citizens who cherish democracy to band together and protect the free arena of ideas that the closure or forced sale of ABS-CBN would severely weaken,” they added.
Several Kapamilya artists have also come out to ask support for the embattled network.
Broadway star Lea Salonga, Vice Ganda, Anne Curtis, and Ogie Alcasid were just few of the many stars who openly spoken up about their calls for the media network’s franchise renewal.
International groups joining the calls
Aside from local journalist groups, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has also joined the calls for the Kapamilya network’s franchise renewal
The international journalists’ group have expressed their support for the network, calling on the Philippine Congress to “ensure the survival of ABS-CBN . . . by renewing its franchise.”
“As the leading TV and radio network, offering independent, verified news and information free of charge to millions of citizens, ABS-CBN plays an absolutely fundamental democratic role in the Philippines,” said Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
ABS-CBN to operate with or without franchise
Meanwhile, ABS-CBN is said to continue operating with or without their needed franchise.
In an article by Dailypedia, Rafael Butch Francisco founder of Francisco Study Center and founding chairman of Francisco Center for Social Change FCSC Foundation said ABS-CBN’s legacy and activities will go on, with or without the franchise renewal.
“Sure, they talk about the possibility of the network losing its franchise from time to time. However, that issue doesn’t necessarily consume them 24 hours a day. What they discuss mostly among themselves is still work-related,” said Francisco.
According to Francisco, with ABS-CBN vast platform losing the airwave frequency which comes with the franchise is just a switch of a button to their social media platform where their contents are already available as of now.
“In case, the ABS-CBN franchise doesn’t get renewed, all that the network is losing is just its frequency. Its regular viewers will not see It’s Showtime and FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano anymore on Channel 2. Likewise with the listeners of the radio stations DZMM and MOR. But they can still watch their favorite Kapamilya shows in other ABS-CBN platforms – like cable, I Want and The Filipino Channel abroad. And lest we forget – there’s always Facebook.” Francisco added.
ABS-CBN has also other businesses they can focus on.
With their newly opened sound stage in San Jos Del Monte Bulacan, ABS-CBN can capitalize the facility as a viable venue for local and foreign productions. Although ABS-CBN management has yet to open up to that path in the nearest future.
“The two studios are of Hollywood standards – with high ceilings and measuring 1,500 square meters each. So far, there are already inquiries from American film companies that regularly shoot here in the Philippines about the possibility of renting the new ABS-CBN studio facilities. ABS-CBN president Carlo Katigbak, however, isn’t open to the idea. At least, not yet.’” he said.
ABS-CBN is said to be working on building 10 new sound stages, and the technical team is also being trained to handle the many kinds of facilities.
With all the noise about the franchise renewal, Francisco said, ABS-CBN has gone through hell and back and with their experience, they know how to play their cards.
“Perhaps that was one of the reasons why GMA slid down to No. 2 sometime in 2014 after lording it over in Philippine television beginning in late 2003. And so – for those worried about ABS-CBN losing its franchise, there’s no need to panic. Trust ABS-CBN to know how to play its cards right.”
Apart from Butch Francisco’s opinion on ABS-CBN operating with or without franchise, another possibility is for the network to secure probational permit to operate if the deliberation for its renewal is not yet finished when the time comes.
Sen. Grace Poe in a statement said ABS-CBN could go to the National Telecommunications Commission and secure a probationary franchise, the only question is if NTC will give in to the request.
“Kung nag-expire na ang prangkisa, at hindi pa tapos ang franchise deliberations at option ng ano mang prangkisa na suspinde muna ay humingi ng probational permit to operate mula sa NTC. Ang tanong, bibigyan ba sila ni Mr. (Gamaliel) Cordova ng permit to operate temporarily, probationary? ‘Yun ang ginagawa ng maraming nag-expire na pero di pa tapos ang prangkisa, probational permit to operate,” said Poe.
Poe also said the Senate is very much ready to start deliberating onABS-CBN’s franchise bill. She also said many of the Senators are in fact supportive of the renewal, it’s just that Congress has to initiate the first step.
“Marami akong nakausap na kasama natin doon (Senate), suportado naman nila ang pagre-renew nito pero siyempre kikilatisin din mabuti ang magiging kasunduan sa franchise. Pero alam mo ang Senado kahit i-approve namin ‘yan, pag ito hindi gumagalaw sa Kongreso, wala rin mangyayari,” she said.