MANILA, Philippines – The House bill granting a provisional franchise to ABS-CBN would require the embattled media network to dedicate 10% of its paid advertisements to the government.
In Section 4 on the Responsibility to the Public of House Bill (HB) No. 6732, ABS-CBN would be tasked to dedicate “adequate public service time” in its broadcasting stations to allow the government to relay “important public issues,” especially in times of calamities.
But what’s unique about HB 6732 – penned by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and 7 other House leaders – compared to other ABS-CBN franchise bills filed in the past is its explicit definition of “public service time.”
In the Cayetano bill, the term public service time is defined as “10% of the paid commercials or advertisements which shall be allocated based on the need to the executive, legislative, judiciary, constitutional commissions, and international humanitarian organizations duly recognized by statutes.”
If HB 6732 is signed into law, then ABS-CBN would have to air more government-sponsored commercials until October 31, 2020, the last day of the temporary franchise’s validity.
But a similar provision is also found in the laws renewing the franchises of two other major broadcast networks: GMA-7 under Republic Act (RA) No. 10925 and TV5 Network under RA 11320, approved in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
Section 4 of both RAs 10925 and 11320 reads: “Public service time referred herein shall be equivalent to 10% of the paid commercials or advertisements which shall be allocated based on the need to the executive legislative, judiciary, constitutional commissions, and international humanitarian organizations duly recognized by statutes.”
The bill also authorizes the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) – which had ordered the network to close its television and radio operations after its franchise expired on May 4 – to increase the public service time in cases of emergencies or calamities.
NTC would be tasked to craft rules and regulations on public service time, which would then be applied to other broadcast network franchise holders.
Cayetano said they are aiming to pass HB 6732 on 3rd and final reading by Monday afternoon, May 18. (READ: House poised to grant ABS-CBN provisional franchise until October 2020)
The NTC had previously told the House committee on legislative franchises that it would “most likely” issue ABS-CBN a temporary permit to operate while the bills that would have renewed its now-expired franchise are still being deliberated upon by lawmakers.
But when May 4 lapsed, the NTC issued a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN, forcing the network to go off-air and instead stream its shows online for now. ABS-CBN already ran to the Supreme Court to ask for a temporary restraining order on the NTC order.
NTC said it would have overstepped the powers of Congress – which has the power to grant or deny franchises – if it had given ABS-CBN a temporary permit to operate.
But critics said Cayetano and the House are to be blamed for the ABS-CBN shutdown, as lawmakers dragged their feet in tackling the franchise renewal bills.
The Speaker and other ranking members then filed HB 6732 to give a temporary franchise to ABS-CBN, with Cayetano saying hearings would soon resume to allow legislators to properly discuss the network’s alleged violations in its franchise. (READ: Cayetano lashes out at critics: ABS-CBN franchise issue ‘not about silencing media’)
The Speaker said he set the expiration of the temporary franchise to October 2020 because 5 months was the time they estimated for the proper tackling of all issues surrounding ABS-CBN.
But Cayetano, who agreed to a term-sharing deal with Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, also admitted he does not want his 15-month term as Speaker to end without finishing the ABS-CBN hearings.
HB 6732 is swiftly going through the legislative mill in the House, with lawmakers approving it on 2nd reading on the same day the measure was filed.
It would have to go through another 3 readings in the Senate before it can be transmitted to Malacañang for the signature of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has repeatedly made threats against ABS-CBN due to a longstanding grudge caused by the network’s alleged unfair election coverage.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque claimed on May 6 that Duterte is “completely neutral” on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal, and that Congress may vote as they please. Duterte’s previous statements and actions in the last 3 years belie that claim. – Rappler.com
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