Media giant ABS-CBN stopped broadcasting on TV and radio on May 5, 2020 in the Philippines after receiving a cease and desist order from the National Telecommunications Commission with the expiry of its franchise on May 4.
For Filipinos abroad, the services of ABS-CBN continue.
In a statement on May 5, ABS-CBN said that it will keep broadcasting through its international subsidiaries and flagship channel TFC or The Filipino Channel.
“TFC assures its many subscribers around the world that it will remain and continue to deliver relevant news and information, TV shows and movies across our different channels and platforms via cable and satellite, IPTV, and TFC Online,” according to the statement.
The company also stated that it trusts that the Philippine government will “decide on our franchise with the best interest of the Filipino people in mind, recognizing ABS-CBN’s role and efforts in providing the latest news and information, especially during these challenging times”.
“We will continue our commitment to be of service to Filipinos, worldwide,” the statement declared.
ABS-CBN is the largest broadcast network in the Philippines.
The network, which employs about 11,000 people, went off the air on free TV and radio across the Philippines on the evening of May 5.
“This is in compliance with the cease and desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) today that prohibits ABS-CBN from continuing its broadcast operations effective immediately,” the company said in a statement.
Congress has sole authority in the Philippines to grant broadcast licenses, but lawmakers in the Lower House have noted acted on bills seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s permit.
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly stated his disdain for the network and the Lopez family who own it.
Duterte’s gripe with ABS-CBN goes back to the 2016 presidential election when he accused the network of refusing to run a number of his campaign’s political ads.
Duterte accepted an apology from ABS-CBN President Carlo Katigbak in a Senate hearing in February 2020.
During the Senate proceedings, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the government could issue provisional authority to allow ABS-CBN to continue broadcasting while the network waited for official legislative approval of its license.
On May 3, the Philippine government’s top lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida, threatened to charge regulators at the NTC with graft if they went ahead with granting ABS-CBN a temporary permit.
Calida had also filed a case asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the media giant’s license because of alleged irregularities.
In its order, the NTC noted that Republic Act (RA) 7966, which granted the company a 25-year franchise, expired on May 4.
It added that under the Radio Control Law, “(n)o person, firm, company, association, or corporation shall construct, install, establish, or operate a radio transmitting station, or a radio receiving station used for commercial purposes, or a radio broadcasting station, without having first obtained a franchise therefor from the Congress of the Philippines.”
“Upon the expiration of RA 7966, ABS-CBN no longer has a valid and subsisting congressional franchise as required by Act No. 3846,” the regulator said in a statement.
It gave the network 10 days to explain why the frequencies assigned to it “should not be recalled for lack of the necessary Congressional Franchise as required by law.”
The NTC order shut down five AM radio stations, which include DZMM-AM in Obando, Bulacan; 18 FM radio stations; and 42 TV stations; and 10 Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting (DTTB) stations.
However, news channel ANC was not included in the order.