Around 700 media personnel so far have signed an online statement as of Monday supporting ABS-CBN network, which recently lost its franchise renewal bid when Congress denied it.
Hundreds of media practitioners from various media outfits called the decision of the House committee on legislative franchises to deny the ABS-CBN franchise “unjust and cruel,” as “it threatens the livelihood of workers as we are facing uncertainties due to the pandemic.”
Around 11,000 personnel are employed in ABS-CBN and may lose their jobs.
“One media outfit shut down because of the whims and trivialities of those in power is one too many, especially at a time when the public needs credible and independently verified information to make informed choices,” the group said in a statement.
The House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises voted 70-11 on Friday to reject a new broadcast franchise for ABS-CBN Corp which has ceased broadcast operations for more than two months.
This development jeopardizes the jobs of thousands of workers under the ABS-CBN group, particularly its broadcast business whose programs enjoyed a massive reach of more than 80 million Filipinos here and abroad.
The company had been losing P30 million to P35 million in daily ad revenues following a cease-and-desist order from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) over an expired franchise last May 5 or over 2 months ago. In the past, the NTC allowed other media networks to remain on the air while applying for a new one in Congress.
In signing the statement, hundreds of journalists, editors and media workers also condemned the “huge attack on press freedom.”
“The role of a journalist in a democratic society is to keep the people well-informed to allow them to be free and self-governing, not to serve as any administration’s publicist,” it added.
The group said that the rejection of ABS-CBN’s franchise bill “sounds the death knell to a credible source of news.”
The group of media practitioners also said the 70 lawmakers who voted against the franchise renewal “clearly want to treat the press as a propaganda machine that will serve their political interests, embellish their image, and parrot their spin.”
“History will surely be cruel to the lawmakers who voted against the franchise renewal of a network that was last shut down during the Marcos dictatorship. The only “historic” deed they were able to accomplish is to make the chamber a pawn for carrying out a personal vendetta,” the group added.
“Victory came easy for the forces that conspired to bring down ABS-CBN. But the rehabilitation of the image of those condemned by history won’t, as it will be fraught with the collective wrath of a people who live by democracy and the rule of law.”
Media experts condemned the decision of the House committee to reject ABS-CBN bid for a fresh franchise.
Malacañang said it has maintained a “neutral” stance on the franchise application of ABS-CBN.
However, President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly threatened the media giant’s push for a new franchise over issues on political advertisements for the 2016 national elections.
On December 3, 2019, Duterte warned ABS-CBN that “I will see to it that you are out.”
Duterte even said that it was better for the owners of ABS-CBN to just sell the network.
In February, however, Duterte took a softer stance on ABS-CBN and accepted the apology of the company’s President and CEO Carlo Katigbak but clarified that the fate of the company’s franchise lies in the hands of Congress.
ABS-CBN has denied any wrongdoing, saying the network has never violated laws in its 65-year service./Stacy Ang