Sotto bill seeks to grant 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN


    SENATE President Vicente Sotto III yesterday sought the renewal of the franchise granted to television giant ABS-CBN Corporation for another 25 years.

    Sotto, in filing Senate Bill 1967, said the bill will give the broadcasting network a better chance at getting back on air under the new leadership of the House of Representatives.

    “New Speaker, new officers. Could be a better chance. I noticed the TV stations have been replacing their news programs with animes. It means competition is absent and mediocrity is creeping in because of the absence of a strong competitor like ABS-CBN,” Sotto said.

    “It could also mean a new franchise. Matter of semantics and could (be) understood that they (ABS-CBN) used to have one before,” he added.

    In his explanatory note, Sotto cited a Social Weather Stations survey held in December 2019 but was released on September 2020, indicating that television remains to be the top source of news in the country despite the existence of several online social media and networking sites.

    “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.

    The Senate chief noted that ABS-CBN, which is the country’s largest network, has been able to reach far-flung areas better than other networks, thus it being off-air for quite some time now has deprived a lot of people of news and information.

    ABS-CBN also operates various media platforms including domestic television, radio networks, and online sites.

    Based on a survey of Kantar Media conducted on September last year, Sotto said ABS CBN is still the preferred channel with an audience share of 45 percent or 14 points higher than GMA-7 Network’s 31 percent.

    “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,” Sotto said.

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

    “Do you think there is a chance for this to be 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.