NTC orders ABS-CBN to ‘cease and desist’ operations

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The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered ABS-CBN network to “cease and desist” from broadcast operations on television and radio, a day after the company’s 25-year operating franchise expired.

ABS-CBN network ceased its operations after making a farewell broadcast. The television and radio stations went off the air on May 5, 2020, Tuesday night, at around 8 p.m.

The NTC said, in their Cease-and-Desist Order (CDO) dated May 5, the network must stop its broadcast operations “due to the expiration of its congressional franchise” on May 4.

It said the network should “stop operating its various TV and radio broadcasting stations nationwide ‘absent a valid Congressional Franchise as required by law’.”

The NTC gave the network 10 days from receipt of the order “to respond as to why the frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled.”

Earlier, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra issued a legal opinion that ABS-CBN may continue broadcasting despite an expired franchise, on the strength of a provisional authority issued by the NTC.

However, Solicitor-General Jose Calida who had filed quo warranto petition questioning the validity of the ABS-CBN franchise was of a different mind. On Sunday, the eve of the expiration of the previous franchise, Calida had warned the NTC against issuing a provisional authority to ABS-CBN, saying Congress alone may decide on the fate of the network.

The NTC had  cited the Radio Control Law in ordering the network to halt broadcast operations.

“Upon the expiration of RA 7966, ABS-CBN no longer has a valid and subsisting congressional franchise as required by Act No. 3846,” it said.

“The NTC Regional Offices shall implement the closure order in their respective areas of jurisdiction. After receipt of ABS-CBN’s response, the NTC shall schedule the case for hearing at the earliest time after the Enhanced Community Quarantine is lifted by the Government,” it said.

The NTC is tasked with regulating and supervising radio and television broadcast stations.

The NTC order comes despite steps taken by Congress leaders to show that they favor a renewal of ABS-CBN’s broadcast franchise. Lawmakers have maintained they have the sole power to act on franchises such as that of ABS-CBN.

Earlier this year, the Senate adopted a resolution  expressing the chamber’s view that ABS-CBN Corporation and its subsidiaries should be allowed to operate while awaiting Congress action on its franchise renewal application.

The resolution was turned over to NTC officials who said they were ready to issue a provisional authority for ABS-CBN.

At the House of Representatives where the measure on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal must emanate, lawmakers also said they saw no reason to shut down the network because the franchise application was already being discussed by the House Committee on Legislative Franchises.

The committee chaired by Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez held a meeting in early March to kick off deliberations on the ABS-CBN franchise bills. It also sent a letter to the NTC asking that a provisional authority be issued to ABS-CBN pending renewal of the network’s franchise./Stacy Ang

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