Why ABS-CBN lost
"I expected this."
The House of Representatives committees of legislative franchises, and good government and public accountability, voted a resounding “no” to the renewal of the 25-year franchise of the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN radio and television network. The vote was 70-11.
I expected this. I followed the hearings and took note of all the issues thrown at the network, including the violations it had committed. In the final analysis, I concluded that ABS-CBN was unworthy of a mass media franchise.
Among those violations are the citizenship of its former President, Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III. He had dual citizenship because while he was born to Filipino parents, he was born in the United States. But the Constitution says that ownership and management of mass media organizations are limited to Filipino citizens!
The second issue was corporate layering through several entities, in the Lopezes’ attempt to circumvent the Constitution.
Through this, a holding company existed merely as receptacle and issuer of Philippine Depositary Receipts to foreigners, who were able to acquire 132 million shares of ABS-CBN Corp. amounting to P6.072 billion.
My gulay, even though PDR holders cannot vote, that is still ownership in any language!
Then came the issue of ABS-CBN creating ABS-CBN Convergence which also created TV Plus to allow people to view ABS-CBN movies, sitcoms, concerts, and others for a fee. The National Telecommunication Commission deemed this a violation of the terms of its franchise.
To make matters worse for the network, a block time arrangement was supposedly agreed upon with Amcara Broadcasting over Channel 43 to air TV Plus programs. Later on, NTC engineers found that Channel 43 signals were coming from Mother Ignacia Avenue in Quezon City, right where the ABS-CBN tower and main offices were.
That is clearly fraud and a violation of the anti-dummy law!
It is not right to accuse the House of partisanship, much less of assaulting freedom of the press. Press freedom was never the issue here.
Those who are saying that the move to shut down ABS-CBN has a chilling effect on mass media are missing the point. I pity my colleagues who have been misled to think that press freedom is the issue here. And, my gulay, while President Duterte had earlier denounced the network for bias, I believe that he has nothing to do with this latest development.
I don’t know if the Lopezes would appeal this. It is their right, of course, but I am sure nothing will change.
If there is anything we should learn from this episode, it is that the Lopezes have certainly had their heyday, using their network for money, politics, and power.
The Lopezes cannot deny that they used their newspaper, Manila Chronicle, as well as ABS-CBN, to achieve exactly these. I should know – I used to be a business editor for The Philippines Herald. The Lopezes used their newspaper to attack their business and political enemies. Those were the days when oligarchs and taipans fought it out.
With the fall of ABS-CBN, I think I can say it all. After 70 years as a journalist, I indeed have seen it all.
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