NTC orders ABS-CBN to shut down

By J. Jala | 12:30 AM May 06, 2020

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Tuesday ordered ABS-CBN to cease operations immediately, saying its license had expired.

NTC said ABS-CBN’s 25-year congressional license expired on May 4. The company has 10 days to respond and say why frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled, it added.

ABS-CBN signed off after its evening news broadcast, leaving the screens of millions of viewers black and the jobs of 11,000 employees in jeopardy.

ABS-CBN’s cable news channel and digital operations will continue, albeit with a limited reach.

In an interview with GMA’s 24 Oras, Edgardo Cabarios, deputy commissioner of the NTC, said that only a court’s temporary restraining order could allow the network to resume operations.

Netizens said the closure is a blow to press freedom and the flow of information in the middle of a pandemic.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said closing ABS-CBN is a serious blow not only against the freedom of the press, but more so the people’s right to know.

“Even as our people battle a deadly pandemic, it carries out an underhanded assault on freedom of the press and of expression through a cease and desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission against broadcast network ABS-CBN.

“That this dastardly move comes two days after we observed World Press Freedom Day and a day after Jose Calida warned the NTC of graft charges should it allow the network to operate beyond the expiration of its franchise on May 4.

“All this stems from President Rodrigo Duterte’s personal vendetta against the network, whose franchise renewal he pledged to block.

“No matter that this is a slap on Congress, which has the sovereign power to decide on matters of franchise and which explicitly asked the NTC to allow ABS-CBN to continue operating while it deliberates the bills to renew the network’s franchise.

“No matter that the closure of a major media network would deprive our people of a major source of information at a time when information could spell life and death as we battle the pandemic.

“It sends a clear message: What Duterte wants, Duterte gets. And it is clear, with this brazen move to shut down ABS-CBN, that he intends to silence the critical media and intimidate everyone else into submission.

“But just as the independent press survived and triumphed with the people over the Marcos dictatorship, we are certain that we shall do so again, that this regime that has run roughshod over our laws and disregarded our basic rights and liberties will not succeed.

“We call on the community of independent Filipino journalists and on all Filipinos who cherish democracy and liberty to stand together and resist this government’s brazen assault on freedom of the press and of expression.”

In an official statement, ABS-CBN said it is hopeful the government will decide on our franchise with the best interest of the Filipino people in mind.

“Millions of Filipinos will lose their source of news and entertainment when ABS-CBN is ordered to go off-air on TV and radio tonight (5 May 2020) when people need crucial and timely information as the nation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is in compliance with the cease and desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) today that prohibits ABS-CBN from continuing its broadcast operations effective immediately.

“Despite Senate Resolution No. 40, the House of Representatives’ committee on legislative franchises’ letter, the guidance of the Department of Justice, and the sworn statement of NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, the NTC did not grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate while its franchise renewal remains pending in Congress.

“In an interview with DZMM last week, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano even gave an assurance that there is no move to shut down the network.

“ABS-CBN has been providing comprehensive news coverage on the public health crisis and working with local governments and the private sector in providing food and basic goods for those in need through its “Pantawid ng Pag-ibig” campaign. To date, it has delivered over P300 million worth of goods for the benefit of over 600,000 families affected by the enhanced community quarantine.

“We trust that the government will decide on our franchise with the best interest of the Filipino people in mind, recognizing ABS-CBN’s role and efforts in providing the latest news and information during these challenging times.

“ABS-CBN remains committed to being in the service of the Filipino and we will find ways to continue providing meaningful service to them.”

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