NTC awards ABS-CBN broadcast assets to Advanced Media

January 26, 2022 - 9:45 AM
Security guards stand outside the headquarters of ABS-CBN network following government orders to cease its operations, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines May 5, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

MANILA — The Philippines‘ telecoms regulator said on Tuesday it has awarded television broadcast frequencies of ABS-CBN Corp, the country’s former top broadcasting company, to Advanced Media, which has links to a political ally of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte, who has a strained relationship with the media, has threatened numerous times to block the franchise extension of ABS-CBN.

The National Telecommunications Commission said in a statement it had issued a provisional authority for Advanced Media Broadcasting System Inc to operate and maintain analogue television Channel 2 and digital television Channel 16, assets previously held by ABS-CBN.

The regulator said it had allowed Advanced Media to provisionally operate the television channels catering to the capital region and nearby provinces until 2023.

Advanced Media has links to billionaire Manuel Villar, the Philippines‘ richest man.

A spokesperson for Villar did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ABS-CBN declined to comment.

Villar, a former house speaker, senate president and presidential candidate, is a supporter of Duterte. Villar’s wife Cynthia was re-elected senator in 2019 as part of the president’s team.

In July 2020, Philippine lawmakers rejected the renewal of a 25-year license for ABS-CBN, alarming critics who saw the move as politically motivated.

It prompted ABS-CBN to cut jobs and stop its free-to-air television and radio shows watched by tens of millions of Filipinos. Since then, ABS-CBN has turned to buying airtime from other television networks and airing shows online. —Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales. Editing by Jane Merriman