15 senators back bill seeking new ABS-CBN franchise

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    FIFTEEN senators have signed up as co-authors of the measure filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III proposing to give ABS-CBN Corporation a 25-year franchise to operate.

    Senators Ralph Recto, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Franklin Drilon, Panfilo Lacson, Juan Edgardo Angara, Nancy Binay, Sherwin Gatchalian, Manuel Lapid, Emmanuel Pacquiao, Joel Villanueva, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan, Aquilino Pimentel III, and Leila de Lima are now co-authors of Senate Bill 1967.

    Sotto on Monday filed SB 1967 which seeks to renew the franchise granted to television giant ABS-CBN Corporation for another 25 years, saying the network has a better chance of getting a fresh franchise under the leadership of House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco.

    Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said the Senate cannot tackle the bill until the House “will pass it first.”

    “Do you think this has a chance of being approved under the new leadership in the HOR? Depends on President Duterte,” Drilon said.

    Sen Grace Poe said: “Given the crippling effects of the ABS-CBN shutdown and the need for more news outlets with the widest reach during the raging pandemic, the issue will be given utmost priority as soon as it is referred to the Committee on Public Service. However, since the Constitution requires that bills of such nature originate from the House, it will most likely be referred to Rules until the House grants the franchise.”

    “My support for a free and fair media in the name of public service remains. I will make sure that the Committee acts on it in due course,” Poe added.

    Last July, the House committee on legislative franchises adopted a recommendation of its technical working group to reject the bills seeking to grant ABS-CBN a fresh 25-year franchise, citing numerous violations of the terms of its old franchise which expired on May 4 last year.

    In his explanatory note, Sotto said television remains to be the top source of news in the country, according to a Social Weather Stations survey held in December 2019 but was released on September 2020, despite the existence of several online social media and networking sites, and as such a network like ABS-CBN needs to operate.

    “News, current events and programs can be shown and aired in real time that makes the viewers feel more updated and in the know – regardless of their location – and actions can be made quickly when important news is broadcasted,” he said.

    “Truly, broadcast media have been an important part of every Filipino’s home,” he added.

    A survey of Kantar Media conducted on September last year also showed that ABS CBN was still the preferred channel with an audience share of 45 percent or 14 points higher than GMA’s 31 percent.

    Sotto said ABS-CBN, which is the country’s largest network, has also been able to reach far flung areas better than other networks, thus being it off air for quite some time now deprives people of information. The network also operates various media platforms including domestic TC, radio networks, and online sites.

    “ABS-CBN’s wide reach to Filipinos, alongside with the undeniable advantages of broadcast media relative to mass communication, definitely calls for the immediate renewal of the network’s franchise,” he added.