Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Bill to RENEW Expiring ABS-CBN Franchise FILED Again in 18th CONGRESS

The 18th Congress of the Philippines was opened on Monday, July 22, with the election of leaders, speakers and deputies for the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the State of the Nation Address by President Rodrigo Duterte. With the formalities out of the way the main body of national legislation in the country can start working on stuff like the 2020 budget, or the possibility of returning the death penalty for drug-related crimes (a Duterte recommendation), or maybe, finally getting a bill renewing the license of media giant ABS-CBN which is expiring next year. Foiled in the 17th Congress, a bill to that effect is being refilled.

CNN Philippines reports that another attempt to have the broadcasting franchise of ABS-CBN be renewed was brought up again in the House of Representatives, by the same member of the House that filed it in the Congress that came before. Rep. Micaela Violago of the 2nd District of Nueva Ecija re-filed the franchise renewal for the major network as House Bill 676, with less than a year before the existing one for ABS-CBN expires in 2020. At stake are the jobs of 6,730 regular and 900 non-regular employees, plus 3,325 talents as of 2018’s end.

Violago’s rationale for renewing the franchise remains the same as her 17th Congress filing, to wit: “In acknowledgement of ABS-CBN’s accomplishments and the capital requirements of its operations, the immediate renewal of its original franchise which expires on March 30, 2020, is recommended to ensure the uninterrupted and improved delivery of its services to the Filipino people.” Her previous renewal bill got stuck at the committee level since 2016, and was not tackled at any length until the adjournment of the 17th Congress in June.

Probably the most significant opponent of seeing ABS-CBN get a fresh franchise to operate for 25 more years is none other than President Rodrigo Duterte himself. Parallel to US counterpart Donald Trump, Duterte has bones to pick with several media outlets across all platforms: The Philippine Daily Inquirer for print, Rappler online, and ABS-CBN for television. This friction was rooted in the network’s alleged failure to broadcast a 2016 Election campaign ad paid for by Duterte, and favoring a critical attack on him by major critic, now-former Senator Antonio Trillanes. The President has threatened to veto any attempt to renew the ABS-CBN franchise, despite assurance by Malacañang Spokesperson Salvador Panelo that a decision by the people in Congress can overturn any legal opposition by Duterte.

The existing ABS-CBN franchise will expire on March 2020, and if not renewed by legislation will force the network to stop operations, leading to catastrophic job loss and production opportunities.

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