Senate bill seeks 25-year franchise for ABS-CBN

PHILSTAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

A BILL renewing the franchise granted to ABS-CBN Corp. for 25 years has been filed anew in the Senate even as the House of Representatives denied the Lopez-led media company’s application in July last year.

Senate Bill No. 1967, filed on Monday, is seen to have more chances under the leadership of Speaker Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco, its author said.

“New Speaker, new Officers. Could be a better chance,” Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III told reporters in a phone message on Monday.

He said he filed the bill as he observed there was weaker competition, particularly in delivering news with the absence of ABS-CBN.

“I noticed the TV stations have been replacing their news programs with anime,” he said. “It means competition is absent and mediocrity is creeping in because of the absence of a strong competitor like ABS-CBN.”

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Mr. Sotto said he was “getting consensus” among the members of the House and the Senate. Franchise bills must first secure approval of the House before it can hurdle the Senate.

Further, he cited in the explanatory note of the bill that survey firm Social Weather Station found 69% of Filipino adults or 45 million use television as the main source of news in September 2020. Only 19% rely on radio, while one percent use newspapers.

The House committee on legislative franchises, voting 70 to 11, denied to extend the media company’s franchise, which expired in May 2020. The chamber was then led by former speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano.

The denial was said to have displaced 11,000 direct employees of ABS-CBN, which is the largest entertainment and media network in the country.

Mr. Sotto noted that ABS-CBN is still the most preferred network among its competitors, citing Kantar media.

“In September, ABS-CBN is still the top choice of viewers in the Philippines,” he said in the explanatory note.

He added the network offers The Filipino Channel, which caters to Filipinos abroad. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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