House freezes ABS-CBN franchise bill, firm takes movies to China market

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has frozen the bill, which seeks to renew the legislative franchise of broadcasting giant ABS-CBN Corp. The franchise expires in nine months or on March 20, 2020.

Without a franchise renewal, the radio-television network may have to close shop.

There are speculations that the  Lopez-owned broadcasting firm is strengthening its online service in preparation for that possibility.

The Committee on Legislative Franchises, where House Bill 4349 bill had been pending since November 2016, did not submit a report on it before the outgoing 17th Congress adjourned its third and last regular session yesterday.

This means that the renewal measure would have to be re-filed in the 18th Congress, which convenes on July 22.

A key member of the legislative franchises committee said no action on any bill seeking to renew the ABS-CBN franchise would be taken as long as President Duterte has complaints against the network.

“They have to thresh out and resolve their issues with the President. That’s the key to get the bill moving,” said the lawmaker, who did not want to be named.

Duterte has repeatedly criticized ABS-CBN for allegedly refusing to run his advertisement during the 2016 election campaign and showing instead an ad critical of him which his staunch critic, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, paid for.

In November last year, he said he would object to the station’s franchise renewal.

The President has criticized not only the Lopez network but also other media organizations critical of him as well.

House Bill 4349 was filed by Nueva Ecija Rep. Micaela Violago on Nov. 10, 2016.

Violago urged the House to approve the measure “in acknowledgment of ABS-CBN’s accomplishments…and to ensure the uninterrupted and improved delivery of its services to the Filipino people.”

Unlike ABS-CBN, the legislative franchises of its rivals have already been renewed. 

Meanwhile, Filipino movies produced by ABS-CBN will be shown in China for the first time via Phoenix Movie Channel.

ABS-CBN signed a milestone deal with Phoenix Satellite Television, an entertainment group that offers channels with Mandarin and Cantonese-language content.

Under the agreement, a total of 16 ABS-CBN titles will premiere starting September on the Phoenix Movie Channel, including some of its popular drama and romantic-comedy movies.

The company announced in April its entry in Turkey after signing a deal with content production company Limon Yapim for the adaptation of one of its crime suspense drama shows.

In March, Indonesian television network MNCTV began airing its own version of ABS-CBN’s noontime show “It’s Showtime.”

The deal is ABS-CBN’s first non-narrative format franchise buy by a foreign company and solidifies its position as a reliable content provider in the international arena.

ABS-CBN programs are currently present in over 50 territories all over the world, selling over 50,000 hours of content worldwide. – With Richmond Mercurio


Note: This article has been updated at 6:38 p.m. to include the word "bill" in the headline upon request by The Philippine STAR.

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