media industry

Can ABS-CBN still get frequencies? NTC says ‘maraming nakapila’

Aika Rey
Can ABS-CBN still get frequencies? NTC says ‘maraming nakapila’

FREQUENCIES. Supporters of the ABS-CBN franchise renewal led by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines hold a caravan and protest to commemorate the first year anniversary of the broadcast giant shutdown by Congress on July 10, 2021.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

'Delays will just delay the giving of convenience to the public,' says NTC Deputy Commissioner Cabarios if the regulator delays awarding the recalled frequencies

MANILA, Philippines – If ABS-CBN gets a franchise to operate in the next administration, the National Telecommunications (NTC) said it needs to go through new approvals from the regulator again.

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source, the NTC on Friday, January 28, justified the awarding to other media entities of recalled frequencies from ABS-CBN, by saying that it is a limited public resource.

Should the regulator have waited for ABS-CBN to get a franchise? NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios answered: “The primary consideration is that it is a limited public resource which should be used for public good and convenience. Delays will just delay the giving of convenience to the public.”

“If ABS-CBN would be able to get a congressional franchise, they have to apply for new authorizations after. Eh nakapila po ‘yan eh, marami po sila. (It is a queue. A lot of them are waiting),” he added.

Cabarios said that he does not know, at the moment, how many exactly were waiting in line to be evaluated in order to get a frequency. 

But he explained that they first went through the date of application, on what seemed to be a first-come-first-served basis.

“First is ‘yung sa pila (the queue). Then, we will check the legal qualification, if it is technically qualified and financially qualified. Then, a grant of authorization is given. Ito po ang sinusunuod. (This is what we are following),” the NTC official said.

Cabarios said there were applications lodged in 2006 and 2007, but these were not accommodated at the time because the rules were not there. In 2014, the NTC released a memorandum circular to guide the transition from analog to digital terrestrial television broadcasting or DTTB, but it required simulcasting of digital to analog.

He added that there were also applications from 2017 to 2019. 

The issue of ABS-CBN losing its franchise and assigned frequencies was seen by the public as a politically-motivated move by President Rodrigo Duterte over the media giant airing a campaign ad against him in 2016.

While frequencies are highly coveted, Cabarios does not see a problem with ABS-CBN losing its previously assigned frequencies to others.

“If you look at digital TV, one 6 MegaHertz (MHz) [assignment] can have up to six program channels. That is several. If you have the authority, you can be joined by others to build a single transmitter and you can go on air. It is not a problem,” said Cabarios in a mix of English and Filipino.

For example, digital TV Channel 16, which was previously assigned to ABS-CBN, ranges from 482 to 488 MHz. Cabarios is essentially saying that the frequency range can air six separate standard television channels.

In September 2020, the NTC recalled the frequencies assigned to and used by ABS-CBN. Within four months since the NTC sought other agencies’ guidance, it awarded the recalled frequencies to other media entities.

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TIMELINE: NTC distributes ABS-CBN frequencies

TIMELINE: NTC distributes ABS-CBN frequencies

Analog TV Channel 2 and digital TV Channel 16 were given to Manny Villar-linked Advanced Medica Broadcasting System. Villar’s daughter, Las Piñas Representative Camille Villar, voted against the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise. Mark Villar was a public works secretary under the Duterte administration and now running for the Senate.

Channel 23 and 43 were awarded to Aliw Broadcasting Corporation and Duterte friend Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI). Quiboloy is an avid supporter of Duterte. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.