One year after ABS-CBN shutdown, groups back network's franchise renewal

Published May 5, 2021, 3:20 PM

by Gabriela Baron

Groups backed ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal exactly a year after it signed off the air on TV and radio after the expiration of its congressional franchise.

Workers of ABS-CBN and members of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines rally to show support for the broadcaster in Manila on May 5, 2020 (AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) shut down ABS-CBN’s free TV and radio operations on May 5, 2020, a day after its franchise was left to expire despite a long-pending renewal application at the House of Representatives.

A month later, NCT served two cease-and-desist orders against the network’s digital broadcast in Metro Manila and its sister company Sky Cable’s direct broadcast satellite service nationwide.

In a statement, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) said the shutdown caused “a chilling effect on other truly independent news sources.”

“The College Editors Guild of the Philippines stands resolute in affirming the necessity of ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal. We reiterate that Duterte’s denial of the network’s franchise is an outright attack against the fourth estate,” CEGP said.

The group asserted that the charges against the broadcast network is “baseless,” noting that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) repeatedly stated that they have not found any evidence from the company evading its taxes.

In February 2020, representatives from the BIR and the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) said in a senate hearing that the network has been compliant with regulations, contrary to allegations logged against the media company.

Meanwhile, in a tweet, BAYAN Secretary General Renato Reyes likewise expressed its support to ABS-CBN.

“Pakikiisa sa lahat ng Kapamilya sa unang anibersaryo ng patraydor na ABS-CBN shutdown. Hindi tayo nakakalimot. May araw ng paniningil. #IbalikAngABSCBN at ipaglaban ang kalayaan sa pamamahayag (Solidarity with all Kapamilya on the first anniversary of the treacherous ABS-CBN shutdown. We will not forget. The day of reckoning will come. #IbalikAngABSCBN and fight for press freedom),” Reyes wrote.

The #IbalikAngABSCBN were among the top trending topics on Twitter on Wednesday.

On July 10, 2020, the Committee on Legislative Franchises denied the network’s franchise bid after conducting 13 hearings, which discussed various issues such as alleged labor and tax violations and foreign ownership in mass media.

ABS-CBN was first shut down in 1972 after dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law.