NTC told to refrain from recalling broadcast frequencies of ABS-CBN

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The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) was told to refrain from recalling the broadcast frequencies of ABS-CBN Corp. while Congress tackles the bills seeking renewal of the license for the network.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, the author of one of the measures, said the House franchise committee ordered the consolidation of the bills.

“It will be unlawful for being against constitutional due process if the NTC withdraws the frequencies while the franchise application and 12 bills are pending with the House,” Rodriguez said.

While the grant of a franchise is a privilege, the frequency becomes a “vested right” of a network after it invests on broadcast infrastructure, Rodriguez earlier said.

The NTC should show “judicial courtesy” to the House, which has “primary jurisdiction” over franchises, he said.

During the joint hearing of the house committees on legislative franchises and good government and accountability on Tuesday, Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Mikey Arroyo asked what will happen to ABS-CBN’s broadcast frequencies as lawmakers discussed whether its franchise should be renewed or that a new one be issued as its license had already lapsed.

“If it’s a renewal, do they still have a right to the frequencies they hold, they used to use? These are just small issues under this huge umbrella issue we have. So I believe we should have many more hearings to give an explanation to the experts of ABS-CBN’s side and the oppositors,” Arroyo said.

The NTC’s cease-and-desist order against ABS-CBN shut down on its 42 television stations, 18 FM stations, and 5 AM stations across the country on May 5, was implemented a day after the broadcaster’s franchise expired.

The same order also cited the possibility that the 65-year-old outfit might lose its TV and radio frequencies.

Some “interested parties” are arguing that ABS-CBN’s franchise should be reassigned because the network supposedly let go of these when it applied for a new franchise, said Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate.

“Iyong prangkisa na ‘yan at frequencies na ‘yan ay mayroon nang karapatan so called ang ABS-CBN diyan habang hindi pa finally naresolba ng Kongreso kung i-reject ba ang application for new franchise (ABS-CBN has a so-called right over that franchise and those frequencies while Congress has yet to resolve whether its application for a new franchise should be rejected.),”  Zarate  said.

The shutdown of ABS-CBN, employing  11,000 workers, came less than a week after Solicitor General Jose Calida pressed the NTC to issue a cease-and-desist order, as he warned that issuing provisional authority for the network to continue airing would lead to graft charges.

The NTC earlier said it would let the 65-year-old media outfit operate provisionally while bills to renew its license languished in Congress./Stacy Ang

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