NTC shuts down ABS-CBN’s Sky Direct, TV Plus channels

Ralf Rivas

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NTC shuts down ABS-CBN’s Sky Direct, TV Plus channels
(4th UPDATE) The National Telecommunications Commission delivers fresh blows against media giant ABS-CBN, further limiting its audience reach

DEFEND PRESS FREEDOM. Candles are lit at ABS-CBN in Quezon City as the National Telecommunications Commission issues new orders against the media giant on June 30, 2020. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Around 1.5 million subscribers of Sky Cable Corporation’s satellite dish service saw black screens on Tuesday night, June 30, after state regulators ordered a stop to its operations.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Tuesday ordered Sky Cable Corporation to stop its direct broadcast satellite service, called Sky Direct.

Sky Direct offers programs beamed via satellite. It is different from the company’s cable TV service, Sky Cable, which means cable subscribers are not affected by the NTC order.

The cease and desist order (CDO), signed by NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, and Deputy Commissioners Edgardo Cabarios and Delilah Deles, also asked Sky Cable Corporation to explain within 10 days why the radio frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled for lack of the necessary congressional franchise.

It also ordered the company to refund all Sky Direct subscribers with unconsumed prepaid loads, deposits on subscriber equipment and services, advance payments for monthly charges, and charges collected from new applicants.

The NTC noted that the company’s legislative franchise expired last May 4.

“Sky Direct’s 1.5 million subscribers nationwide, including those in remote areas that do not receive television signals, will be deprived of access to the channels we carry that bring them news, information, education, and entertainment,” ABS-CBN said in a statement on Tuesday night.

“In the spirit of fairness, we continue to appeal to the NTC to extend the same privilege given in the past to other companies whose franchises have expired but are currently pending in Congress to continue its operations until a resolution is passed. We assure our subscribers that we will exhaust all legal remedies to resume our services.”

Sky Cable Corporation also offers broadband internet services. ABS-CBN said Sky Broadband subscribers, along with Sky Cable subscribers, “will continue to enjoy uninterrupted services as they are unaffected by the franchise expiration.”

Sky Cable Corporation is a subsidiary of embattled media giant ABS-CBN. The network was ordered to stop free TV and radio operations last May 5 after legislators blocked its franchise renewal.

House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta previously questioned why Sky Cable continued operations, while its parent company is off-air.

Sky Cable carries other Kapamilya products, including the ABS-CBN News Channel or ANC.

Channel 43

In a separate CDO, the NTC ordered ABS-CBN to stop broadcasting using Channel 43.

ABS-CBN has a block-time agreement with Channel 43, which is owned by Amcara Broadcasting Network. Using Amcara’s frequency through the agreement, ABS-CBN is able to broadcast several channels that can be viewed using ABS-CBN TV Plus.

ABS-CBN said viewers will now be unable to watch TV Plus channels TeleRadyo, Jeepney TV, Yey!, Asianovela Channel, CineMo, and KBO.

The network initially said only TV Plus viewers in Metro Manila would be affected. But on Wednesday, July 1, it said the suspension would extend to all other areas outside the capital region starting that evening, until ABS-CBN seeks “clarification on the scope of the cease and desist order.”

In a House hearing on Monday, June 29, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba had said he was advised by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to close down ABS-CBN TV Plus and Channel 43 because of the network’s expired franchise.

“Ang sabi po ng OSG, tama nga, kasama nga po ito, at puwede po kaming mag-issue ng alias cease and desist order…. Inaaral na po ng aming legal department, at kung sakaling okay na man po ang aming pag-aaral, ii-issue namin ‘yung aming alias cease and desist order,” Cordoba said.

(The OSG said yes, you are correct, these are also covered, and we can issue an alias cease and desist order. Our legal department is studying this now and, if all issues are cleared, we will issue the alias cease and desist order.)

ABS-CBN has a pending petition with the Supreme Court questioning the NTC’s first CDO and “hopes that such petition will be resolved soon in its favor so that it can resume broadcasting on both analog and digital platforms in the service of the Filipino.” – Rappler.com

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.