Franchise renewal of ABS-CBN not a press freedom issue – Speaker Cayetano

Franchise renewal of ABS-CBN not a press freedom issue – Speaker Cayetano

The critics and detractors of the current administration has taken the issue of the franchise renewal of the TV giant ABS-CBN as an opportunity to make at fault as against the President calling the non-renewal and the filing of quo warranto filed in the Supreme Court is a curtailment of the Constituitonally protected right of freedom of the press.

House Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano said the case of the renewal of the legislative franchise of the ABS-CBN “has not, nor has it ever been, purely an issue of free speech or freedom of the press.”

The Speaker in his Facebook post said that the pending renewal of the franchise of the media giant is not an attack on the freedom of the press.

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and ABS-CBN
(photo credit to owner)

Cayetano explained that, if ABS-CBN were a purely online content provider or a traditional printed newspaper, it would not need a franchise from the government to be able to operate.

An existing law – Republic Act No. 3846 requires television and radio broadcasting companies to secure a franchise from the government before they are allowed to operate.

The obligation to renew or terminate a franchise of public utilities falls in the hands of Congress

“This clearly shows that this matter has not, nor has it ever been, purely an issue of free speech or freedom of the press,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano then said that when corporations, particularly those that use broadcast frequencies which are deemed to be resources owned by the people, abuse their franchise, the government “cannot justify the abuse of the franchise simply because it entertains the masses.”

“The franchise is not a license to do anything that they desire with their airtime – including manipulation, disinformation, and deception,” Cayetano said.

ABS-CBN’s coverage of the 2010 & 2016 elections

“Can anyone honestly say, after watching the coverage of the network during the 2010 and 2016 elections, that ABS-CBN did not take sides and favor any candidate? Or that personalities and politicians who through the years have had a strong affinity with the station do not receive undue advantage during campaign season?” Cayetano said.

Such actions done by the TV station is in direct violation of the Fair Elections Law.

Earlier, the House Speaker told ABS-CBN to do some soul searching and that he also took his advice and did some soul searching of his own.

“I did my own soul searching, and while I cannot imagine a Philippines without an ABS-CBN, I also cannot countenance a democracy where a private corporation like ABS-CBN is allowed to use the airwaves to influence our choices in the elections for their favored candidates,” Cayetano said.

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Report from  PDI

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