ABS-CBN goes off-air after NTC order

(3rd UPDATE) – Media network ABS-CBN went off-air on Tuesday night, May 5, after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered it to stop television and radio operations.

The network signed off at 7:52 pm, following the airing of its primetime newscast TV Patrol.

The shutdown comes at a critical time when Filipinos need key information about the coronavirus crisis.

"Millions of Filipinos will lose their source of news and entertainment when ABS-CBN is ordered to go off-air on TV and radio tonight, when people need crucial and timely information as the nation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic," ABS-CBN said in a statement past 6 pm on Tuesday.

The NTC issued a cease and desist order on Tuesday afternoon after ABS-CBN's congressional franchise expired on Monday, May 4.

Its radio stations DZMM and MOR were also ordered to stop operations.

"Despite Senate Resolution No. 40, the House of Representatives' committee on legislative franchises' letter, the guidance of the Department of Justice, and the sworn statement of NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, the NTC did not grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate while its franchise renewal remains pending in Congress," ABS-CBN said.

"In an interview with DZMM last week, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano even gave an assurance that there is no move to shut down the network."

ABS-CBN has over 11,000 workers.

The network was given 10 days from the receipt of the order to respond and explain why the frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled.

"We trust that the 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 during these challenging times," the network said.

"ABS-CBN remains committed to being in the service of the Filipino and we will find ways to continue providing meaningful service to them."

'Grave abuse'

Senators condemned the NTC order as a "grave abuse of discretion," while the House committee on legislative franchises said the NTC may be held in contempt for not issuing ABS-CBN the provisional authority to continue operations.

Human rights groups expressed dismay as well, with Karapatan saying it is "truly abhorrent that this order comes in the middle of a public health crisis where the free press plays a crucial role in keeping the public informed."

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines described the NTC order as "abuse of power."

"Why is the NTC hell-bent on ensuring the closure of ABS-CBN at this time of pandemic, when the whole world has adjusted and extended many policies in the face of COVID-19 and implemented lockdowns in every country?" the group said.

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) also slammed the Duterte administration.

"[President Rodrigo Duterte's] threats and intimidation against the network unmask a conniving plot...that if left unchecked cascades to allied media networks and to the most vulnerable alternative, community, and campus press," the CEGP said. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

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

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