The Philippine Congress has denied ABS-CBN’s application to renew its broadcasting licence for another 25 years, putting at risk the jobs of 11,000 employees.
After a total of 12 public hearings and testimonies over several weeks, the Parliamentary Committee voted 70:11 to deny the renewal of ABS-CBN’s broadcast franchise, affirming a government order to shut down the country’s oldest and largest TV network.
Although the broadcaster can appeal, it will come before the same committee.
ABS-CBN, which operates dozens of radio and TV stations, was first taken off air on May 4, the day its broadcast licence expired. Earlier last month, two alias cease-and-desist orders were also served against the network’s digital broadcast in Metro Manila, and its sister company Sky Cable’s direct broadcast satellite service.
ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs chief Ging Reyes maintains that she does not believe that this will mark the end of the road for the network. She said: “The shutdown has deprived more than 69 million Filipinos of the kind of information, analysis and commentary, and public service provided by ABS-CBN News.”
Carlo Katigbak, ABS-CBN’s president and CEO, said: “We remain committed to public service, and we hope to find other ways to achieve our mission.”
ABS-CBN can still continue to operate as the franchise does not cover its digital presence, its social media, cable channel, ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), and its global affiliate, The Filipino Channel.
Critics see the rejection as part of a political vendetta by President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies in Congress after the media conglomerate failed to air some of the President’s 2016 election campaign commercials.
However, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has defended the decision, explaining that the franchise is not about press freedom, but a check on businesses using public airwaves for private gain.
It is not the first time that ABS-CBN has been forced to close by the government. In 1972, then President Ferdinand Marcos ordered the shutdown of the network after he declared martial law. ABS-CBN was only returned to its owner in 1986, after Marcos was overthrown in a people’s revolt.
Photo credits: ABS-CBN