NTC moves to restrict blocktime agreements, mergers

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
NTC moves to restrict blocktime agreements, mergers
File photo shows the facade of the National Telecommunications Commission office.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The National Telecommunications Commission has restricted blocktime arrangements and mergers, a move that coincided with reported talks between ABS-CBN Corp. and TV5 Network Inc. on such an arrangement.

In a memorandum dated June 23, the NTC restricted the amount of airtime that a radio or TV station can sell to blocktimers to just 50% of daily airtime.

ABS-CBN is not named in the order, but the media giant has since entered into blocktime agreements with Zoe Broadcasting Network and TV5 for some of its shows to return to free TV since its broadcast operations were shut down following a House of Representatives panel’s rejection of its application for a fresh franchise.

Journalist Cito Beltran said in his column on the Philippine Star that the memo is “intended as another nail to keep the coffin of ABS-CBN shut and to stop the migration of talents and content to TV5 via block time.”

Beltran also said that lawyers are calling this memorandum an “overreach.” “The NTC is not a landlord or legislator and should not interfere in contractual and legal obligations of parties entering into a business agreement. They have no business declaring legal liabilities unless directly provided for by law,” he said.

He also warned that the NTC memorandum will “inadvertently give undue favor or advantage to the dominant network in the industry.” GMA Network Inc. has emerged as the biggest winner in the ABS-CBN shutdown as it raked in profits following the demise of its stiff competitor.

READ: GMA sustains winning streak; ABS-CBN trims losses

Meanwhile, another NTC memorandum mandates that those with broadcast licenses should not deal “with those who have outstanding obligations to the national government and local government units” on matters like mergers and acquisitions.

Grantees of broadcast licenses should ensure that all parties it transacts or enters into agreements with should obtain clearances particularly from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs, the NTC and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the memo said.

READ: ABS-CBN abides by tax, labor and corporate laws — gov't

Manny Pangilinan, which owns TV5 through MediaQuest Holdings Inc., was quoted as saying that “nothing definitive or final has been reached,” while ABS-CBN did not confirm or deny the talks in a filing with the local stock exchange.




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