THE National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) yesterday ordered ABS-CBN Corp. and its affiliate Sky Cable to stop the airing of its digital television programs on TVPlus and operation of direct satellite services.
In two separate orders, NTC directed ABS-CBN to cease and desist from operating digital TV transmission (DTT) in Metro Manila using Channel 43.
The NTC also directed Sky Cable to refund subscribers the unconsumed prepaid loads deposit on subscriber equipment and devices, deposit or advance payment in monthly charges for postpaid subscribers.
It also asked Sky Cable to explain within 10 days upon receipt of the order why the radio frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled for lack of a franchise.
“Upon the expiration of RA No. 7969 Sky Cable Corp no longer has a valid and subsisting congressional franchise to install, operate and maintain a direct broadcast satellite service.” NTC said.
Sky Cable complied with the order and stopped the operation of SKY Direct services, affecting 1.5 million subscribers.
The company continued to appeal to the NTC to extend the same privilege given in the past to other companies whose franchises have expired but are currently pending in Congress to continue its operations until a resolution is passed.
“We commit to attend to the concerns of our valued subscribers and partners arising from this decision. We will refund all unconsumed prepaid loads and advance postpaid payments.
We appeal to our SKY Direct subscribers and partners for understanding and patience as we undergo this process.” Sky Cable said.
The NTC first issued a cease and desist order (CDO) on ABS-CBN Corp. on May 5, a day after the 25-year franchise of the network giant expired.
During a House hearing on Monday, NTC chief Gamaliel Cordoba vowed to stop ABS-CBN Corp. from continuing to air its programs using other channels, after being given a dressing down by congressmen.
He said he would issue an “alias” CDO to stop ABS-CBN from using digital Channel 43 to air its programs, as well as its TV Plus operations.
Lawmakers said the NTC has been allowing ABS-CBN to circumvent the May 5 order by using other digital platforms to air content, including Channel 43 or the Amcara Broadcasting Network, of which 49 percent was formerly owned by ABS-CBN.
The TV Plus channels are Cine MO!, Yey!, TeleRadyo, and pay-per-view channel KBO.
In the latest order, the NTC said Sky Cable Corp. should “immediately” stop its SKY direct-to-home satellite transmission, which will affect households with SKY Direct satellite dishes.
It said Sky Cable should “immediately cease and desist operating its direct broadcast satellite service (DBS)” using radio frequencies 14421-14457 MHz and 12673-12709MHz.
NINTH HOUSE HEARING
Former employees who have an axe to grind against ABS-CBN Corp. over labor issues do not support moves to shut down the giant TV television network, which claims that at least 11,000 employees stand to lose their jobs if Congress will not grant its franchise application.
“I’m personally not for the shutdown,” Christopher Mendoza, a dismissed former ABS-CBN audio man, told the ninth hearing of the joint House committees on legislative franchises and on good government and public accountability yesterday, fearing that many employees would lose their jobs.
Mendoza, who aired his grievances over how the network treated him and his fellow workers, however, said he would support the shutdown only if congressmen can establish clear evidence that ABS-CBN violated the provisions of its old 25-year congressional franchise.
“I repeat that my group’s stand is ‘no to shut down’ but we’re still waiting for justice for our dismissal in 2010,” he said.
Among the issues raised against ABS-CBN by lawmakers who are against its franchise renewal is the alleged violation of the rights of its own workers when it committed unfair labor practices.
However, despite the labor cases lodged against it by more a hundred employees, the Department of Labor and Employment told the joint panel that ABS-CBN remained “fully compliant” with the directives of the department after a series of inspection was done in 2018.
On Jan. 28, 2020, DOLE issued an order dropping ABS-CBN as respondent in the issues raised against it which did not have anything to do with the labor case filed before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).
“When we say ABS-CBN fully complied, we refer to the findings during the inspection. We don’t refer to the cases of illegal dismissal filed before the NLRC,” Labor Undersecretary Ana Dione told the joint panel last Monday.
Mark Nepomuceno, the former head of the network’s corporate services, said the inspection was undertaken from July to September 2018 to determine if ABS-CBN adhered to general labor standards, occupational and health standards, and security of tenure.
“ABS-CBN is fully compliant with labor laws,” he said, citing the DOLE’s final order of inspection dated last January 28.
In yesterday’s hearing, Dione described the network as a “good employer” based on its compliance during the inspection period last 2018.
She made the statement on the questioning of Baguio City Rep. Mark Go who also asked DOLE if it would recommend that ABS-CBN be granted a new legislative franchise.
“Our (DOLE) focus is employment preservation,” Dione said, skirting the lawmaker’s question, “Our role is to give inputs and it’s up to members of Congress (to decide).”
Go, who was batting for the network’s franchise renewal, said he was just worried that as much as 11,071 plus employees may lose their jobs.
Dione however said that before deciding, Congress also has to consider the labor cases against ABS-CBN that are pending in the Supreme Court.
On the questioning of Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo, ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak said that as of 2019, the company has a total of 11,071 employees, including those working for its other subsidiaries. He said the mother company has total of 5,918 employees.
Katigbak said 6,705 are regular employees, 2,208 are “project employees” and 2,158 are “independent contractors.”
Mendoza and Journalie Payonan, a former cameraman, accused the company of illegally dismissing him between 2009 and 2010 for trying to form a union composed of non-regular employees or “talents.”
In 2009, Payonan, along with more than 100 ABS-CBN employees, filed illegal dismissal charges against the company and the cases remain pending with the Supreme Court and the NLRC.
The group formed a union after they claimed that they were not getting the same benefits as regular rank-and-file employees, a move which led to the dismissal of at least a hundred non-regular employees.
Among these benefits are annual salary increases and sign-in bonuses under the collective bargaining agreement.
Payonan said he and his fellow employees had no choice but to transfer to the network’s in-house manpower agency Internal Job Market (IJM) as “talents” after they were threatened that their salaries will be withheld if they did not do so.
He said that while expensive equipment like cameras and lights were insured, workers like him did not have personal insurance. – With Wendell Vigilia