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Renewing the ABS-CBN franchise

A post on Timow’s Turf tackles one of ABS-CBN Corporation’s major problems: the pending renewal of its congressional franchise. It tackles the status of the company’s franchise renewal, challenges surrounding it, such as inaction from legislators, campaigns led against the network by groups of internet users with different agendas. The post also ponders on possible scenarios concerning the possible renewal or expiration of its franchise.

Predecessor companies of ABS-CBN (Manila Chronicle from 1955 to 1961 per Republic Act No. 1343, Chronicle Broadcasting Network from 1961 to 1972 per Republic Act Nos. 3223 and 5731), were previously given franchises to operate radio and television stations. However, ABS-CBN was given its own legislative franchise in March 1995 as Republic Act No. 7966, due to expire in late March 2020. On November 10, 2016, House Bill 4349, which aims to renew its legislative franchise, was filed. Unlike its major rival (GMA Network’s HB 4631, filed on December 7, 2016 and approved on the third reading on January 16, 2017), ABS-CBN’s HB 4349 is still pending with the Legislative Franchises Committee as of this writing.

Admittedly, I am not a fan of most of the programming of its flagship station (ABS-CBN 2 Manila) for its content and the perceived slant of its news coverage. One reason behind its slant is that the network has been historically anti-Marcos (since the network’s assets were seized in the early days of former president Ferdinand E. Marcos’ declaration of martial law and utilized by the government and by a crony until the said dispensation’s physical removal from government [so to speak] in February 1986) and pro-Aquino (the company’s assets were returned to the pre-1972 owners during the presidency of Corazon C. Aquino). This is reflected by the network’s ad spots commemorating the 1986 People Power Revolution and the declaration of martial law in 1972 and the airing of relevant programs, documentaries (Batas Militar) and movies (A Dangerous Life) in the channels that it owns and/or operates. By extension, it also favors political personalities identified with the Aquino family. Such concerns and negative perceptions are highlighted in a Facebook page that was active in the early years of the Benigno Aquino III presidency, whose name escapes me as of this writing.

However, ABS-CBN for the most part has been able to comply with national and local laws, specifically clauses in its current congressional franchise that deal with education and information dissemination. Though a notable portion of the company’s content is prolefeed like most soap operas and some entertainment-oriented television shows, it has been able to serve the nation through its educational offerings (though predominantly relegated to Knowledge Channel and a handful of weekend morning shows) and news programs in its radio stations, free to air (notably the regional versions of TV Patrol) and cable channels.

Despite my adversarial attitude towards the company, I see no reason to delay or even deny the renewal of ABS-CBN’s congressional franchise.

Disclosure: The author has friends, classmates and other contacts who either worked with or currently work for ABS-CBN Corporation or its affiliates/subsidiaries.