After Dennis Uy’s buyout denial, ABS-CBN says network ‘not for sale’

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After Dennis Uyâs buyout denial, ABS-CBN says network ânot for saleâ
This view shows the ABS-CBN network headquarters in Quezon City in the Metro Manila area on May 5, 2020. The Philippines' top broadcaster ABS-CBN on May 5 was ordered off the air over a stalled operating licence renewal, drawing fresh charges that authorities were cracking down on press freedom.
AFP / Maria Tan

MANILA, Philippines — Selling ABS-CBN Corp. is not an option, the broadcast network made clear as the fight for the media giant shifts to keeping its frequencies that allow it to air free TV and radio channels.

“ABS-CBN is not for sale,” said Kane Errol Choa, the network’s corporate communications head, said in a text message Monday morning.

Philstar.com sought Choa’s comment the morning after Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy issued a statement, saying his holding firm, Udenna Corp., has “no intention to acquire ABS-CBN."

“Being in the business of broadcasting is not part of our corporate direction,” Uy said in a statement issued Sunday evening

Uy’s statement appeared to be prodded by rumors he is out to go after ABS-CBN after regulators shut down the network’s free TV and radio media last week when it failed to renew its franchise, bills on which had been sitting in Congress since 2014.

Talks of Uy stepping in as a white knight for ABS-CBN were also fanned by his connection to President Rodrigo Duterte, and his fresh media venture just last December. He was a campaign donor to Duterte’s presidential campaign in 2016 and had since massively expanded his business empire when Duterte took power.

“I have high respect on the things ABS-CBN had done and continue to do… We are hoping that their issues be resolved soonest,” Uy said, partly in Filipino. 

With no buyers and sellers however, a direct takeover of ABS-CBN seems to be out of the question. But new players may still enter the battleground, especially if the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) decides later on ABS-CBN already lost its rights to hold its frequencies without a franchise.

NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said last Wednesday the agency would make that determination after ABS-CBN is given a chance to justify why the network should keep its frequencies, without authority to air.

“If they cannot justify their holding of frequencies, we can recall those frequencies,” Cabarios said at the time.

Frequencies are what allow TV and radio networks as well as telcos to operate and provide service. Once frequencies are recalled, NTC has the option to bid them out to a new player following state guidelines.

ABS-CBN has 10 days, expiring this week, to submit its justifications before NTC. Meanwhile, the network is also awaiting a decision on its pleading for a temporary restraining order against NTC before the Supreme Court. The high court is expected to tackle the petition on Tuesday. 

“But this [NTC’s decision to recall frequencies] can still be challenged before the Court of Appeals. Mahaba pa po ito,” Cabarios said.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 27, 2021 - 3:35pm

ABS-CBN Corp. stopped broadcasting on its TV and radio stations on May 5, 2020 after the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease and desist order. The network's franchise had lapsed on May 4 without action by the House of Representatives.

January 27, 2021 - 3:35pm

Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan Party-list) attempts to put the ABS-CBN franchise up for a vote in the plenary, saying it should be taken up as it is in the House's unfinished business.

The House rejects his motion, but he appeals this. House leaders later on commit to begin tackling its unfinished business beginning Monday. —  Xave Gregorio

January 18, 2021 - 3:38pm

Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto (Batangas) has filed a bill seeking the renewal of the franchise granted to broadcast giant ABS-CBN.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier filed a similar bill at the Senate, saying a majority of Filipinos get their news primarily from TV. 

Franchise bills emanate from the House of Representatives.

January 5, 2021 - 8:00pm

Malacañang is leaving it up to Congress to decide on the new bill seeking to renew the franchise of television network ABS-CBN, which was forced to lay off thousands of workers after its franchise expired last May. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque disagreed, saying the fate of the bill depends on lawmakers. 

"Well, again, I beg to differ; that is a sole constitutional prerogative of Congress which must originate from the House of Representatives," Roque says at a press briefing. —  Alexis Romero

January 4, 2021 - 4:53pm

Senate President Tito Sotto files a bill renewing the franchise of broadcast giant ABS-CBN, which went off the air in May.

Sotto's bill seeks to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN Corporation, which expired in March 2020, to another 25 years.

"ABS-CBN's wide reach to Filipinos, alongside with the undeniable advantages of broadcast media relative to mass communication, definitely calls for the immediate renewal of the network's franchise," Sotto says in his bill.

October 6, 2020 - 2:27pm

Broadcast giant ABS-CBN Corp. is returning to free TV starting Saturday after striking a deal with Zoe Broadcasting Network Inc. 

The network announces that "some entertainment shows and movies" it produces will be aired in the "rebranded" A2Z channel 11, formerly Zoe TV, the free TV channel of Jesus Is Lord Church led and founded by Eddie Villanueva.

"A2Z channel 11 will be seen on analog TV in Metro Manila and nearby provinces," the network says.

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