World Broadcasting Unions appeals to Duterte to reconsider ABS-CBN franchise renewal

World Broadcasting Unions appeals to Duterte to reconsider ABS-CBN franchise renewal
The NTC issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN, citing the expiration of its franchise last May 4, with the agency assuring the network giant and the public that its decision was not influenced in any way by recent threats made by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
The STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — World Broadcasting Unions (WBU),  the coordinating body for broadcasting unions who represent broadcaster networks across the globe, stands with ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ largest television broadcaster, after the Philippine House of Representatives voted to shut down permanently its free television and radio services last July 10.

In a statement sent to Philstar.com, WBU said the shutdown "puts at risk the employment of more than 11,000 workers and has drawn accusations of an attack against press freedom. The closure of ABS/CBN is a matter of concern, not just in the Philippines but internationally."

According to WBU, the franchise denial did not close not one TV station but ABS-CBN’s 42 television stations, 10 digital broadcast channels, 18 FM stations and five AM stations across the Philippines, serving a population of more than 108 million.

"ABS-CBN has been fighting to retain its broadcasting rights for some time after the NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) refused to renew its 25-year franchise licence in February. After a public outcry and with support from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, ABS-CBN was operating under a temporary licence. This week, the Supreme Court deferred until early August a hearing into an ABS-CBN petition against the NTC order. It is unclear what effect the House vote will have on this legal action."

WBU recognized that ABS-CBN is a free-to-air television network that has a 44 percent audience share for its news and programs.

As the oldest broadcasting network in the Philippines – operating since 1946 - WBU said ABS-CBN has been a vital source of information for tens of millions of Filipinos.

"As the COVID-19 crisis continues, the role of broadcast media has never been so important. The Philippines is particularly hard-hit with more than 57,000 C-19 cases and a high fatality rate. The first storm of 2020 - Typhoon Ambo - hit land seven times in mid-May. Pandemic protocols complicated the evacuation of tens of thousands of people under lockdown in coronavirus-stricken areas. At times like these – and always – citizens depend on broadcast media for basic information, essential for their survival. This must not be denied to them," WBU stated.

The WBU appeals to the lawmakers in the Philippines House of Representatives and Senate, along with the Duterte administration, to reconsider and to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise to restore the free flow of information to Filipinos.

Established in 1992 as a coordinating body at the international broadcasting level, WBU has provided global solutions on key issues for its member unions with individual broadcasting members that include British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Fox, Disney TV and NBC Universal, among others.

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