House committee denies ABS-CBN franchise application

Congressmen on Friday voted to reject a new broadcast franchise for ABS-CBN Corp., permanently shutting down a major part of the country’s largest media network.

The panel adopted the Technical Working Group s (TWG) Committee Resolution recommending the denial of the network's franchise application through 70 yes votes, 11 no votes, two inhibitions and one abstention.

Based on the TWG report, ABS-CBN violated its old franchise, described by the panel as a privilege, because of the following reasons: its former Chairman Eugenio Lopez III was both a Filipino and American citizen, the issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts supposedly favoring foreigners, inappropriate program content, meddling in politics, tax avoidance schemes;less than exemplary labor practices, among others.
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The TWG also said ABS-CBN cannot invoke the freedom of the press in justifying its franchise application.

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“It is what it is -- a denial of a privilege granted by the State because the applicant was seen as undeserving of the grant of a legislative franchise. By no means can this franchise application be related to press freedom. If it were so, then all applicants for legislative franchises covering mass media could simply claim such freedom and force the hand of this Committee each time,” the Committee Resolution read.

“Such a scenario is totally inconsistent with the nature of legislative franchises as a mere privilege and never a matter of right.  Wherefore, in view of the foregoing, the technical working group respectfully recommends the DENIAL of the franchise application of ABS CBN Corporation,” it added.

ABS-CBN went off air on May 5 after the National Telecommunications Commission issued a cease and desist against the network for lack of franchise.

The bills seeking franchise renewal for ABS-CBN have been pending since 2014 but the House only decided to start its deliberations on these proposals on March 10 this year.


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