Manila – ABS-CBN Corp., the Philippines’ largest broadcaster previously attacked by President Rodrigo Duterte, was ordered by regulators to stop operating its television and radio stations after its franchise expired on Monday.
A hearing on ABS-CBN’s case will be scheduled once the lockdown in the Philippine capital region and nearby areas is lifted, the National Telecommunications Commission said in an order released Tuesday. It gave the broadcaster 10 days to explain why its frequencies shouldn’t be recalled.
The stop order, which covers more than 20 radio stations and over 50 TV and digital TV stations ABS-CBN operates, is effective immediately and can only be remedied if the broadcaster secures a restraining order from the court, NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios told DZMM radio. He said any provisional authority NTC will issue hinges on a franchise which Congress didn’t renew before it expired.
"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,” ABS-CBN said in a statement. The broadcaster trusts that the government will decide on its franchise "with the best interest of the Filipino people in mind,” ABS-CBN said, adding it will find ways to continue providing its services.
Duterte, who has repeatedly attacked ABS-CBN for allegedly refusing to air his political advertisements during the 2016 elections, accepted the broadcaster’s apology in February. The renewal of the franchise is within the authority of Congress, and in the absence of a franchise, ABS-CBN’s operation is entirely up to the NTC, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
On March 10, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba told lawmakers that it will let ABS-CBN continue its operations even after the May 4 expiration of its franchise.