Marcoleta: No chance for ABS-CBN to get new franchise, not even in 2022

Ian Nicolas Cigaral - Philstar.com
Marcoleta: No chance for ABS-CBN to get new franchise, not even in 2022
Supporters and employees of ABS-CBN, the country's largest broadcast network, hold placards as they join a protest in front of the ABS-CBN building in Manila on February 21, 2020. Philippines' government lawyers moved on February 10 to strip the nation's biggest media group of its operating franchise in what campaigners branded a fresh attack on press freedom under President Rodrigo Duterte.
AFP / Basilio Sepe

MANILA, Philippines — There is no chance for ABS-CBN Corp. to secure a fresh 25-year license even if the company files a new franchise bill in 2022, as the government will likely give the network's revoked frequencies to a "more deserving" applicant, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta said Friday.

At a press conference live streamed on Facebook after a House panel voted to deny ABS-CBN's bid for a new license, Marcoleta, who has led attacks against the Lopez-led network since legislators were forced to tackle the company's franchise bills, said broadcast frequencies are "finite resources" that the government "allocates."

That said, Marcoleta floated the idea that the frequency previously assigned to ABS-CBN might no longer be available come 2022, the year of the presidential election.

"Pano kung may binigyan na ang gobyerno? Anong franchise pa ang ibibigay mo sa kanya (What if the government gives the franchise to another media company? What franchise are you going to give to ABS-CBN)?" Marcoleta said.

Marcoleta is a member of the powerful Iglesia ni Cristo, which was rumored to be lobbying for the non-renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise. Philstar.com cannot independently verify the rumor. On Wednesday, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano denied what he called "rumors of threats and intimidation coming from certain groups, even linking it with specific religious organizations, and congressional leaders."

Voting 70-11, a joint panel at the House of Representatives rejected a bill seeking the renewal of the network's congressional franchise, which expired on May 4.

The move will ensure the embattled media company will remain off air since the Duterte administration ordered it to "cease and desist" its free TV and radio channels on May 5, a first since late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. did the same during the martial law era. 

Officials of the National Telecommunications Commission have not been answering phone calls from Philstar.com for comment. 

ABS-CBN's franchise woes started after earning the ire of President Duterte, whose allies dominate the House of Representatives. Upon taking office in 2016, Duterte repeatedly attacked ABS-CBN and threatened to block the renewal of the company's franchise.

At a House hearing on Monday, Regina Reyes, head of ABS-CBN’s news division, said around 69 million people lost access to information and entertainment from the network due to the shutdown. Founded in 1953, the network employs some 11,000 people in regular and contractual positions.

Some lawmakers said ABS-CBN can still appeal the panel's decision or apply again for a franchise as long as bills for it are filed. But Marcoleta disagreed.

"I cannot speculate. It's up to them (ABS-CBN) what's their next move. As for them filing another bill, there's no way. Why would you process the application from the same organization when it was rejected already?" he said.


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