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NTC chief says ABS-CBN must clear ‘violations’ for deal with TV5

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
NTC chief says ABS-CBN must clear âviolationsâ for deal with TV5
File photo shows the facade of the National Telecommunications Commission office.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Moments after a landmark deal between ABS-CBN Corp. and TV5 Network Inc. was announced Thursday, the commissioner of the National Telecommunications Commission came on state-run radio to say that the Lopez-led broadcaster has to clear unspecified violations before proceeding with its investment in the Pangilinan-led network.

By violations, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba was referencing those found by a House of Representatives panel in the 18th Congress which became the reasons for denying ABS-CBN’s application for a fresh franchise. The decision came despite several government agencies had cleared the broadcast giant of wrongdoing.

"Ang nakikita ko po na parang pong kailangan nating tingnan is mayroon po silang violations, so hindi po sila makakuha ng sarili nilang prangkisa, so ang ginagawa po nila is nasakay po sila dito sa TV5. Pero hanggang ngayon po, bitbit po nila ang kanilang mga violations," Cordoba said in an interview over Radyo Pilipinas.

(What I see here is it seems like there are violations so they cannot get a franchise, so what they are doing is they’re riding on TV5. But until now, they are still carrying those violations.)

Asked by the government radio anchor if ABS-CBN needed to address these violations first before continuing with its deal with TV5, Gamaliel answered in the affirmative.

He added that the next step of ABS-CBN and TV5 is for them to submit to the NTC their agreement and clearances from the telecommunications regulator, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Customs and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Absent these clearances, Cordoba said the NTC will block the ABS-CBN and TV5 deal.

'Not targeted'

The presentation of these clearances is part of a memorandum which prohibits companies with broadcast licenses from dealing “with those who have outstanding obligations to the national government and local government units” on matters like mergers and acquisitions.

This is one of two memos issued by the NTC which observers said seemingly targeted ABS-CBN as they coincided with talks between the network and TV5, the other being a memo restricting the amount of airtime a radio or TV station can sell to blocktimers to just 50% of daily airtime.

ABS-CBN has 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 the denial of its franchise application.

Cordoba denied targeting ABS-CBN, saying that the memo never mentioned any specific broadcaster and is applicable to all franchise holders.

"Hindi po ba tama naman na ang gobyerno ay siguraduhin na lahat ng mga private sector na binibigyan ng privilege ay ayon po sa batas na ginagawa?" he said.

(Isn’t it only right that the government ensures that the private sector which is given privileges is conducting business in accordance with the law?)

In a disclosure, ABS-CBN said its agreement with TV5 will allow it to acquire 6.46 million primary common shares, equivalent to 34.99% of capital and voting stock of the latter for P2.16 billion.

Following the acquisition of shares, the equity of local media conglomerate MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., which operates TV5, will be trimmed to 64.79% of voting and capital stock. MediaQuest,which also has majority interest in The STAR group, will still hold the controlling stock of TV5 despite the agreement. 

Luis Limlingan, head of sales at local brokerage Regina Capital, and Terry Ridon, convenor of local think tank Infrawatch PH, said this move will level the playing field. — with a report from Ramon Royandoyan

ABS-CBN

GAMALIEL CORDOBA

NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

TV5

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