ABS-CBN Shutdown Shocks The Nation

Today May 5 in the unfortunate year of 2020, a sad yet infuriating news about the fate of the largest television network shocked the country. As the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a cease and desist order to ABS-CBN and its subsidiary broadcast channels. This order came after the deadline of the broadcast franchise by the NTC in which there is also a pending bill in congress discussing the franchise.

In the final broadcast of TV patrol, they acknowledged the order by the NTC and also delivered news that still talks about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However this broadcast is heavy to watch as they also have their anchors Noli De Castro, Ted Failon, and Bernadette Sembrano tell the sad news to the public. 

The shutdown also came at the very unlikely period where media and information is badly needed by everyone to control and eventually eliminate the threat of the corona virus. The pandemic has already halted live shows and taping of shows like ASAP Natin 'To, FPJ's Ang Probinsyano, and have reverted to air their previous shows like “Be Careful With My Heart” “May Bukas Pa” and "100 Days To Heaven."

Under the NTC order, the network’s five radio stations, including DZMM, will be shut down  as there is no new Congress-approved franchise to allow its operations in broadcasting. This also applies to 18 FM radio stations and over 50 national and local television stations owned and operated by ABS-CBN across the country.

Under Republic Act No. 3846, all broadcasting stations—TV or radio—need to obtain a franchise from Congress before they are allowed to operate.  In the days where the bill was deliberated, there was an initial clarification that ABS-CBN’s license will expired on May 4 by the NTC. However due to the health crisis and delays in passing the bill, it now came to that spot wherein operations now depend on the decision of the NTC.

Even if ABS-CBN will secure a franchise from congress, they must also have a permit or a license from the NTC to operate which sounds redundant but it is the protocol done by every network to obtain that right to broadcast. It has also been clarified by legal experts that the NTC cannot issue a provisional authority to allow any TV station to operate without a franchise approved by Congress. A franchise is a requirement and cannot be substituted with a provisional authority.

Congress took a long time to finally start on the deliberation of the bill, they said that they were too busy to have a session for the bill. This also led to many complaints from other politicians as well as celebrities who are affiliated or supports the Kapamilya network. The progress was slow and frustrating yet they keep making promises and assurances that the franchise will push through and the network can still continue to operate.

Probably the only assurance they gave was a letter to the NTC to grant provisional authority to continue operation of ABS-CBN. Which in the end, the commission has the final decision if the network can still continue its broadcasts.

Unfortunately the NTC decided to pursue to halt their operations citing the lack of franchise law which was gravely delayed due to many reasons. So in the end, the assurances and letters were pointless and have placed thousands of jobs in jeopardy and we are still in the middle of the pandemic where the economy is already suffering.

This does not only affect journalism and news, it has also affected the entertainment industry where many stars like Vice Ganda, Coco Martin, Piolo Pascual, Liza Soberano, Enrique Gil, Kathryn Bernardo, Daniel Padilla, Jodi Sta. Maria, Judy Ann Santos,  Regine Velasquez and many Kapamlya stars future as well as the people behind the camera like writers, directors, assistants, cameramen, and even security and maintenance people will be badly affected to an uncertain state as this shutdown rocks not only the institution but the people who built it.

However I believe that the network can still have a chance to come back. As they have fairly cleared their names with the issues thrown at them. It was a matter of technicality that they have to shut down. And it truly sad, because in one way or another the Kapamilya network has been a part of the Philippine history and culture, yet during this critical time they opted to disrupt a partner to help in these trying times.

And as silence rings with the void of television and radio, may it be a roar to congress of what they have done to the Filipino nation.

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