Philippines shuts media giant as lawmakers reject franchise bid

ABS-CBN building. Photo by Flickr

The Philippines shut down its largest broadcasting network by thumbing down the renewal of its franchise.

Following 13 hearings, the majority of the lawmakers at the country’s House of Representatives voted against the renewal of ABS-CBN Corporation’s franchise bid, the latest major blow against the outlet which has been critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

It can be learned that Duterte had been lashing out against ABS-CBN since 2017, accusing it of unfair reporting and for its failure to run his advertisement during his presidential bid.

“I will file a complaint. Congress, no need to renew it [franchise]. But to operate is something else, so I will point this out, your garbage, then we’ll see,” he had said.

ABS-CBN repeatedly apologized to the president and explained that the limits under the election law barred the airing of some of his ads.

In a statement released following the franchise denial, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that the palace was neutral on the issue as it respects the separation of powers between the two co-equal branches of the government.

“The decision of the House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises denying the franchise application of ABS-CBN Corporation is a sole prerogative of Congress that we in the Executive recognize,” he added.

“Much as we want to work with the aforesaid media network, we have to abide by the resolution of the House committee.”

Meanwhile, ABS-CBN said it was deeply saddened by the decision to block its franchise renewal.

“We are deeply hurt that the Committee on Legislative Franchises has denied the franchise application of ABS-CBN. We believe that we have been rendering service that is meaningful and valuable to the Filipino public,” said ABS-CBN President and Chief Executive Officer Carlo Katigbak.

“Nevertheless, we would like to thank the Committee for allowing us a chance to air our side on all the issues raised against us,” he added.

Katigbak also thanked the 11 lawmakers who stood by their bills to renew the media firm’s franchise.

“We remain committed to public service, and we hope to find other ways to achieve our mission.  Together with our employees and our audiences all over the world, we share in your sadness over this setback,” he said.

“We look forward to the day when we can again reunite under our broadcast … thank you for keeping the faith with us.”

With the blocking, some 11,000 employees of ABS-CBN have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown situation in the Philippines.