NTC: ABS-CBN to cease Channel 43, TV Plus operations before day ends

NTC: ABS-CBN to cease Channel 43, TV Plus operations before day ends
File photo shows employees and supporters lighting candles at the gate as the ABS-CBN Corporation office in Quezon City shines the network's colors.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 7:40 p.m.) — ABS-CBN's TV Plus services should have been ceased along with its other operations when it went off the air with the expiration of its legislative franchise and will be halted by Monday's end by the National Telecommunications Commission, commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said Monday. 

At the House committee on legislative franchises hearing on ABS-CBN's franchise renewal on Monday, Cordoba said that the broadcast giant was using the franchise of AMCARA Broadcasting Network for its Channel 43 operations. 

"All broadcast operations of ABS-CBN are only authorized through its expired franchise...In other words, ABS-CBN's airing of digital TV on Channel 43 is part of the cease and desist order because the franchise that they used for that is ABS-CBN's franchise," he said.

Rep. Boying Remulla (Cavite 7th District), who sits as Senior Deputy Majority Leader and who earlier asked if ABS-CBN chairman emeritus Gabby Lobez was "100% Filipino or 100% American or 50% Filipino or 50% American," went as far as saying that the broadcast giant's operation for the past eight weeks was illegal and usufructuary. 

He added that allowing ABS-CBN to operate post-May 4 with an expired franchise warranted grounds to file charges against Cordoba.

"[Provisional authority] was predicated on the effectivity of the franchise of the corporation...Cordoba should resign because he is not doing his job," Rep. Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip Party-list) said.

Rep. Mike Defensor (Anakalusugan Party-list) added: "The law is the law and we have to obey that. Today, the continuing use of that frequency should stop."

'Due process in the spirit of fairness'

Lopez's citizenship, along with a litany of recycled issues, had already been addressed by government agencies—including the labor department, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the Securities and Exchange Commission—at an earlier Senate hearing.

READ: Allegations against ABS-CBN recycled anew at House hearing | ABS-CBN abides by tax, labor and corporate laws — gov't

For his part, ABS-CBN Corp. CEO Carlo Katigbak said that the company was willing to submit to the judgment of the regulatory agency but appealed for due process and asked the committees to allow broadcast while the franchise is pending for renewal.

"In the past, the NTC has permitted other companies whose franchises have expired and were currently being deliberated to continue with their operations until such time as either the application is approved or denied. We would like permission to ask for the same privilege to be extended to ABS-CBN in the spirit of fairness," he said. 

"The cease and desist order does not cover Channel 43. It's not on the list... A block-time arrangement is a standard commercial agreement that is quite common in the broadcast industry. Many other broadcasters do this as well," he added. 

At an earlier hearing, Katigbak said that the sale of the TVplus boxes was "in compliance with the directive of NTC to migrate our broadcast to digital.” 

A cursory glance at the cease and desist order shows that Channel 43 is not among the operations the corporation was directed to cease and desist operations of.

Cable association supports bid for franchise

Later in the hearing, the Philippine Cable and Telecommunications Association (PCTA), the country's largest cable group, expressed support for the broadcast giant's bid for a franchise renewal, saying that services like TVplus allowed for clearer signals.  

According to PCTA president Ralph Casiño, multiple channels on a single frequency affords consumers “the power of choice.”

“In the old technology, each frequency could only deliver a single channel. With digital compression, broadcasters are able to provide four or more channels. This empowers televiewers and consumers to have more options and program choices,” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas president Jun Nicdao, who also asserted that blocktime agreements have long been a staple industry practice, pointing out that there is even an organization called Independent Block Timers Association of the Philippines. 

“Blocktimers do not need a franchise to buy airtime from a broadcasting station,” he said.

According to Nicdao, blocktime involves only the sale of airtime, but the control of the station still rests with the owner or the franchise of the station.

“Between TVplus and SKY, there are about 11 million homes that have access to our service. If we cut that off, that's almost 55 million people that will lose access to their entertainment, their news and information,” Katigbak said. — Franco Luna 

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 23, 2023 - 1:36pm

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.

May 23, 2023 - 1:36pm

ABS-CBN announces that it will cease operations of TeleRadyo, which has been in the red since 2020, by June 30.

August 11, 2022 - 9:37am

In a disclosure, ABS confirms signing of deal that sees the broadcast giant enter into a joint venture with MVP's TV5. — Ramon Royandoyan


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

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