The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Tuesday issued a cease-and-desist order against ABS-CBN Corp. after its 25-year broadcast franchise expired on May 4.
The shutdown order, coming down amid the Covid-19 pandemic, places in danger some 11,000 jobs in the country’s biggest media network.
“Upon the expiration of RA (Republic Act) 7966 (ABS-CBN franchise), ABS-CBN Corporation no longer has a valid and subsisting congressional franchise,” the NTC order said.
It said ABS-CBN should “immediately” shut down five AM radio stations, 18 FM radio stations, 42 TV stations, and 10 digital terrestrial television broadcasting stations “for implementation,” and comment within 10 days why its broadcast frequencies should not be pulled.
ABS-CBN said it would comply with the NTC order and shut down after the TV Patrol evening newscast. The ABS-CBN News Channel said it would continue airing as it was not covered by the NTC order.
On Sunday, Solicitor General Jose Calida warned the NTC that it faced graft charges if it gave the Lopez-led ABS-CBN a provisional authority or temporary license to operate.
The House Committee on Legislative Franchises had written to the NTC to allow ABS-CBN to operate beyond the expiry date of its license, while Congress deliberated on a new franchise.
On March 10, the NTC assured the House panel that it would grant ABS-CBN a temporary license, as this was the practice in the case of broadcast outfits whose applications for franchise remained pending before lawmakers.
Calida in February asked the Supreme Court to void ABS-CBN’s franchise, citing supposed violations such as skirting the constitutional ban on foreign equity.
Senators Franklin Drilon and Francis Pangilinan condemned the NTC’s action and urged ABS-CBN to seek redress from the Supreme Court.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said the exchanges between NTC and lawmakers in March seemed to be a charade and that the ultimate goal was to close ABS-CBN.
“I have explained this over and over again that the provisional authority is not the solution,” he told the ABS-CBN News Channel.
Lagman said ABS-CBN’s shutdown was the “death knell” to freedom of the press and doomed the livelihoods of thousands of workers.
But not all is lost as Congress has resumed sessions and could tackle the ABS-CBN franchise, he said. (PressONE.ph)