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A Crushed Hope: ABS-CBN Franchise’s fate further threatened amidst hullaballoo in Congress

The recent squabble in the House of Representatives presents more threats to ABS-CBN, which is being urged to re-apply for a new broadcast franchise

ABS-CBN’s chances of getting a new franchise from the current congress become even slimmer as the House of Representatives descends to a chaotic selection of a new House Speaker.

There was a hope, following encouragements from various supportive groups, including the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) and members of the House of Representatives, themselves, that re-application would bear a more favorable result for the embattled media giant.

The European Union Parliament’s threat of placing the country on their trade sanctions list if a new franchise won’t be granted, is also viewed as an added pressure for Congress to act favorably on the matter. But that small chance that ABS-CBN might have had has been reduced further.

Following the most recent development in Batasan, where at least 180 members of the House rejected Alan Peter Cayetano’s offer to resign from the House Speaker’s post, it is now almost certain that the incumbent most powerful figure in the Lower Chamber will keep his place.

That is in spite of earlier reports which suggested President Rodrigo Duterte’s most recent intervention, two days earlier, made the two parties agree that a turnover of leadership from Cayetano to Marinduque Lone District Representative Lord Allan Velasco, must take place come October 14, a news item Cayetano disproved during his supposedly farewell speech in Congress.

It can be recalled it was also Duterte who brokered the 15-21 agreement on House Speakership, where Cayetano was supposed to lead the Lower Chamber for the first 15 months, with Velasco taking the reins in the remaining 21 months. However, it remains questionable whether a successful takeover will indeed happen on the said date.

As far as ABS-CBN’s possible renewed bid to secure a fresh 25-year franchise from Congress is concerned, these developments are detrimental. Any move to put the grueling process of franchise renewal, into motion, will have to go through much tighter scrutiny, given the people who already denied the network its rights to broadcast, will be most likely the same legislators to be seated on the panel.

It can be remembered the House Speaker himself promised to give the ABS-CBN a 6-month provisional license to broadcast, while House deliberation was ongoing, but ended up revoking. He was also unable to hide his bias against ABS-CBN - citing his own personal reasons and re-enforcing Duterte’s -during the network’s most recent franchise bid. Such may have played a role in the eventual overturn of a putatively positive result for ABS-CBN.

House Speaker Cayetano has also repeatedly argued Velasco’s absenteeism in Congress, especially during deliberations of issues of utter public importance, such as ABS-CBN’s franchise. Congressman Velasco wasn’t a part of the 84-member panel that decided ABS-CBN’s fate and he didn’t actively express his sentiment on the issue, either. That a renewed bid would give the network a more favorable return under Velasco’s House Speakership, remains far-fetched, given his record.

Given those circumstances and the absence of a free tv license, ABS-CBN is left with much fewer choices to keep itself afloat, among those is strengthening its digital presence. The current move by the country’s big telcos to improve internet services nationwide is seen to expedite the currently active consumer migration from traditional television to more contemporary and eve growing platforms such as online streaming, which ABS-CBN is now heavily relying on to deliver its content.



There is also the People’s Initiative, which is being actively pushed, to grant the network a fresh broadcast franchise, even without the approval of both Congress and the President. But as heated arguments regarding House Speakership continues to simmer, it will remain to be seen if all these alternative options can be pre-empted by a fresh 25-year franchise grant, from the same group of people who denied it, three months ago.

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