A broadcast company’s legislative franchise does not equate to one channel, contrary to the claims of the Federation of International Cable TV Associates of the Philippines, which lauded ABS-CBN’s closure.
The largest broadcaster in the country went off the air for the first time since 1972 on May 5 following the National Telecommunications Commission’s issuance of cease-and-desist order.
Later that same night, FICTAP President Estrellita Juliano-Tamano alleged in an interview with GMA News that the network violated laws for operating six channels under one franchise.
“Yung sinubmit po nilang for renewal ay malayo don sa original na franchise nila noong 1995. Meron po silang dinagdag doon. Ibigsabihin one franchise, one channel,” Tamano said.
After Tamano’s interview, Filipinos who supported ABS-CBN’s shutdown circulated her claims despite not being verified. The rival network that carried the report also did not air or conduct a fact-check on her statement.
This prompted several ABS-CBN reporters and other critics to disprove these allegations and noted that the network complied with all franchise regulations thus not violating any law.
ABS-CBN’s entertainment division Dreamscape Entertainment and Karen Davila posted an infographic countering FICTAP’s claims.
Ano po ba katotohanan sa mga akusasyon ng FICTAP laban sa ABSCBN? Basahin po: pic.twitter.com/AO2u5oUvKL
— Karen Davila (@iamkarendavila) May 6, 2020
Veteran filmmaker Kip Oebanda also noted that FICTAP is a competitor of ABS-CBN.
“Asking FICTAP about ABS-CBN is like asking Pepsi about Coke. Competitors have their own agenda,” Oebanda said on Twitter.
Asking FICTAP about ABS-CBN is like asking Pepsi about Coke. Competitors have their own agenda.
— Kip Oebanda (@kipoebanda) May 6, 2020
It’s one franchise, one frequency
Ronald Manlapig, president of the Philippine Cable Television Association Inc. (PCTA), also clarified in an interview with ANC on Thursday that there’s no need for separate franchises per channel.
Instead, the Congress issues legislative franchises for a specific frequency that broadcasting firms can use to operate, therefore one franchise is equivalent to one frequency.
Media group Media Ownership Monitor Philippines said that licensing is necessary because of the limited broadcast frequencies.
“Without government control, the medium would be of little use because of the cacophony of competing voices, none of which could be clearly and predictably heard,” the group said.
“In Metro Manila for example, the frequency is limited to 23 physical spots for TV channels, 32 spots for AM radio channels, and 25 FM spots – and they are all taken at the moment. The same goes for the other metropolitan areas,” it added.
The franchise which lapsed last May 4, was granted by the Republic Act 7966 signed into law on March 30, 1995.
Prior to the network’s closure, five bills were filed and remained pending in the 18th Congress to supposedly extend its operations for another 25 years.
PCTA recently joined other media and journalism organizations and individuals n the call to bring ABS-CBN back on air.
“We find it most unfortunate that the cease and desist order has come out during the greatest health crisis our nation has known and when information dissemination is most important,” PCTA said in a statement.
Digital TV means more channels in one frequency
In 2017, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) ordered all broadcasting companies to switch from analog to cable television as part of the government’s plan to improve the country’s communication systems.
The DICT launched the Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting migration plan which aims for 95% of households in the country to migrate to digital television by 2023.
Manlapig also explained that with digital TV, a frequency can accommodate more channels.
“Yung analog natin right now na gagawing digital, yung frequency nun magkakaron ng several channels,” he said.
“It would be technical. Ang isang analog channel na six MHz can create six channels depending dun sa tinatawag na digital compression whether standard or high definition and gagamitin ng broadcaster,” he added.
Despite DICT’s standing order and the known benefits of digital TV, Tamano, who had been vocal against ABS-CBN’s renewal for years, accused the latter of killing the cable TV industry in the country.
“Kaya pinaglalaban namin ‘yan, ayaw naming mabura ‘yung micro, small and medium cable operators, members namin nationwide, na mawawalan ng hanapbuhay dahil diyan sa ginagawa nilang TV plus na wala man lang prangkisa,” she said.
ABS-CBN happened to be at the forefront of this shift in recent years.
In 2019, the company cited Kantar data on digital terrestrial television penetration in November that the number of non-cabled households in Metro Manila using its ABS-CBN TV plus box increased to 81% as compared to 72% in 2018.
ABS-CBN also sold 8.9 million units of its TV plus units, which was launched in 2015.