The shutdown of media giant ABS-CBN should not have come as a surprise but, to many of the broadcast network’s employees and supporters, it was shocking and outrageous. They are acting like they didn’t know the network’s franchise to broadcast using public radio frequency was about to expire. Even the company’s executives themselves seemed baffled after they were compelled to sign off for the last time on the 5th of May 2020. This can only mean they were all in denial up to the very end. They were in denial that the current government would oblige them to follow the law. It’s something a very powerful and influential company is not used to, apparently.
CEO Carlo Katigbak appealed to the public and asked for help to express their objection to the cease-and-desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on the operation of the television and radio of the media network. He was basically appealing to emotion, which is kind of pathetic for an executive. It shows that he wasn’t savvy enough to keep the company operating and is resorting to trickery to get his way. It’s not going to work the second time considering the same tactic – tricking Congress the first time into approving a dodgy renewal application fell through.
Contrary to what most people supportive of the company are saying, ABS-CBN’s troubles did not start when President Rodrigo Duterte came to power. While Duterte is vocal about his beef with the owners of the network, their legal problems started way back in 2014 during former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s term. ABS-CBN’s application for franchise renewal then was stalled because, according to Estrellita Juliano-Tamano, president of the Federation of International Cable TV and Telecommunications Association of the Philippines (FICTAP), a direct competitor of ABS-CBN’s “black box” satellite operation, “ABS-CBN’s franchise application in 2014 was allegedly no longer faithful to the original franchise agreement”.
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The FICTAP had opposed the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise in 2014 as it was allegedly no longer faithful to the original franchise agreement, with six more channels added to the permit. These, Tamano said, should have operated under different franchises.
She also accused ABS-CBN of charging P2,500 pay-per-view for the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight on 2 May 2015 in alleged violation of an NTC cease and desist order.
It also charged P30 for Kapamilya Box Office (KBO) programs when Tamano said the franchise is supposed to operate “free to air.”
Whether what she is saying is valid or not doesn’t really matter for now. ABS-CBN executives and supporters can tell everybody they are all false allegations but their sentiments can be dismissed as biased and, more importantly, only the court can decide what is true or not. Evidently, Congress did not tackle the renewal again after 2014. That’s an issue a lot of people cannot understand so they simply blame Duterte for the shutdown.
What is false is the claim by ABS-CBN executives and supporters that the cease-and-desist order “violates the right of the public to information and is a curtailment of the freedom speech and of the press.” The fact that they can still hold press conferences, express their views and operate other media platforms they own such as their digital streaming channels contradicts their claim. Besides, ABS-CBN is not the only source of news and information. There are dozens of media outlets out there still operating that the public can rely on to deliver much needed information.
What is true is that the ABS-CBN shutdown has a lot to do with the company’s greed. They wanted everything in one application.
The timing of ABS-CBN’s shutdown could not be helped. The government, even while the country is in the middle of a crisis due to the COVID19 pandemic, cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that a company doesn’t have a license to operate. Even former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said that the NTC cannot issue a provisional authority to operate because there is no basis when there is no franchise.
This is actually fair for all the little people and small companies that have lost their livelihoods or those that have had to close their businesses because they didn’t have the right permit to operate. This proves that even big companies have to follow the rules. This is a win for everybody. It will set a precedent for everyone to comply with the law.
The only people now who still have a problem with following the law are the members of the Opposition. They refuse to understand the real reason why ABS-CBN was shut down. Their minds can only grasp one single theory – that it is Duterte’s fault. No wonder they keep failing their advocacy. Even some lawyers who are expected to understand law are trying to justify giving ABS-CBN a pass just because they are allied with the Opposition.
For a country with so many lawyers, it is quite ironic that some Filipinos, particularly lawmakers, still find it hard to follow the law. It seems a lot of lawyers are the ones arguing among themselves over how to interpret the law. This is not a good sign. It means they just want to work around the law or even defy it.
Celebrities under ABS-CBN’s payroll insist that the network’s operation is vital to the well-being of the people. It’s quite the opposite. The media giant has been playing kingmaker for decades and has lulled people into believing Cory, Ninoy, and Noynoy Aquino are heroes. The people were entranced and thought they were in good hands. ABS-CBN also produce a lot of garbage shows that set the country backward. They set Filipinos to an “entertained” mode when what the people really need was a wakeup call. The Philippines cannot progress when the majority are always preoccupied with lame TV shows. It can only be good that ABS-CBN can no longer mislead the public with their biased news and dishonest reporting. They can no longer air the “life and times” of their favourite candidates before elections.
The timing of ABS-CBN shutdown is perfect because its employees and supporters cannot go out and protest. If they do, they risk arrest for violating the quarantine or getting infected with the coronavirus. The odds are all against them. Hopefully, by the time the quarantine is lifted, the public will have forgotten about them and moved on. Their celebrity supporters should accept the fact that Duterte is more popular than they are.
In life, things are not always what they seem.