BREAKING: Congress grants ABS-CBN provisional franchise to resume broadcast

Photo: ABS-CBN PR
Photo: ABS-CBN PR

The House of Representatives today granted a provisional franchise to embattled media giant ABS-CBN, which will allow the Filipino company to operate until October 31 this year.

House Bill 6732, which was signed by several lawmakers including House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, will give ABS-CBN the authority to operate. Congress said it was necessary to allow the company to go back on air due to the public’s need to be informed of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read: House asks NTC to explain why it shouldn’t be cited for contempt over ABS-CBN shutdown

“[W]e hope to strike a balance between the immediate needs of the people amid this crisis and the duty of Congress to ensure accountability to our present laws. Providing ABS-CBN with a provisional franchise valid until 31 October 2020 will give both the House of Representatives and the Senate [the opportunity] to hear the issues being raised for and against the renewal, and assess, with complete impartiality and fairness, whether or not the network shall be granted a franchise for another (25) years. We cannot, in good conscience, sweep the accusations under the rug,” the bill said.

ABS-CBN was abruptly shut down by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) when its old license expired on May 4. Before NTC issued a cease-and-desist order against the broadcasting network, Solicitor General Jose Calida warned the commission that it will be charged with graft should it grant a provisional license to ABS-CBN.

Read: Sacked broadcaster claims ABS-CBN ‘using’ employees to gain public sympathy

The company’s franchise renewal was the subject of much controversy after President Rodrigo Duterte said on multiple occasions that he would personally block it, alleging that the media company failed to air his campaign ads during the run-up to the 2016 elections. He also alleged that the company had broadcast reports which portrayed his government in a negative light. Cayetano also appeared to have an ax to grind against the company, alleging that ABS-CBN interfered in the 2016 national elections.

There are currently 11 bills sitting in the House seeking to grant ABS-CBN a 25-year franchise, the earliest of which was filed in July 2019.

Meanwhile, the company’s talents welcomed the news, including broadcaster Karen Davila, who tweeted, “I honestly didn’t expect this. The 6 month provisional franchise allows a way forward to address concerns. This means ABS-CBN will be allowed to re-open while [Congress is] discussing the different issues accused against the network. This is a big deal.”

Actress Jodi Sta. Maria couldn’t hide her glee and wrote, “Thank You Lord! Thank you to Congress. THANK YOU!!!!!”

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