Philippines seeks scrapping of ‘abusive’ broadcaster’s franchise

The Philippine government’s move slammed by opposition lawmakers and activists as an attack designed to intimidate independent media. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 10 February 2020

Philippines seeks scrapping of ‘abusive’ broadcaster’s franchise

  • The government said the 66-year-old entertainment and media conglomerate violated ownership laws
  • Solicitor-General Jose Calida: ABS-CBN had for too long shown greed and abuse of what was a privileged franchise

MANILA: The Philippine government on Monday urged the Supreme Court to cancel the franchises of the country’s top broadcaster, ABS-CBN Corp, a move slammed by opposition lawmakers and activists as an attack designed to intimidate independent media.
The government said the 66-year-old entertainment and media conglomerate, which drew the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte during his 2016 election campaign, had violated ownership laws and was involved in “highly abusive practices.”
Duterte’s opponents said the complaint was timed to deny Congress the chance to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN, which employs nearly 7,000 people and engages hundreds of celebrities in radio, television and online content.
Solicitor-General and staunch Duterte loyalist Jose Calida said ABS-CBN had for too long shown greed and abuse of what was a privileged franchise.
“We want to put an end to what we discovered to be highly abusive practices of ABS-CBN benefiting a greedy few at the expense of millions of its loyal subscribers,” Calida said in a statement.
ABS-CBN denied that and said the complaint appeared to be “an effort to shut down ABS-CBN to the serious prejudice of millions of Filipinos.”
Duterte’s has threatened for three years to torpedo the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN, which Duterte accuses of refusing to air his campaign commercials.
ABS-CBN has not directly responded to Duterte’s claims, but its chairman, Eugenio Lopez said at the company stockholders’ meeting in 2017 that it was “part and parcel of our work being a media institution.”
Lopez also said the company deals with these problems privately.
The move comes at a time of concerns among some investors about regulatory unpredictability following a Duterte-ordered review of government contracts, which included big losses for two water firms whose billionaire owners Duterte has criticized.
ABS-CBN has lost 65 percent of its share value since Duterte assumed office in June 2016. It fell as much as 2.9 percent on Monday.
In 2018, the government revoked the license of Rappler, a news website known for its tough scrutiny of Duterte, who called it a “fake news outlet” sponsored by American spies. Rappler still operates pending appeal.
Calida said ABS-CBN started a pay-per-view channel without approval and charges fees not supposed to be levied. He said that like Rappler, ABS-CBN had breached foreign ownership restrictions behind an “elaborately crafted corporate veil.”
The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines said the Supreme Court and Congress had the chance to prove they were independent and not beholden to Duterte.
“We must not allow the vindictiveness of one man, no matter how powerful, to run roughshod over the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of the press and of expression, and the people’s right to know,” it said.
Congressman Edcel Lagman said the complaint was “maliciously timed” while representative Rufus Rodriguez called it an encroachment on Congress’s turf.
Presidential spokesman Savlador Panelo said Duterte personally had nothing to do with the complaint, and in criticizing ABS-CBN, he was exercising his right to free speech.


TWITTER POLL: Nearly 50% say they’ll consider attending a concert, cruise up to 6 months after the coronavirus crisis

Updated 44 min 51 sec ago

TWITTER POLL: Nearly 50% say they’ll consider attending a concert, cruise up to 6 months after the coronavirus crisis

  • Nearly 90% of people said they would eventually go back to crowded events
  • For some the risks are just too much - for them this is the end for concerts

DUBAI: The coronavirus crisis has brought the world to a standstill, people wear masks and rubber gloves to protect them from this hidden danger.

 

But a recent Arab News Twitter poll revealed nearly half of people would be confident in attending a large group event such as a class, concert or cruise within six months of the crisis ending.

Of the 1,653 people who took part – 49.7 percent said it would take up to six months before they’d go to these events, while a defiant 19.4 percent said they’d be happy to go straight away.

More than 20 percent would wait a somewhat more cautious six months, to a year before setting foot in a concert hall, classroom or cruise.

But for some the damage is already done – 10.6 percent said that was it for them, their cruising and concert days are over.

There were 1,653 votes cast in this Arab News Twitter poll

The coronavirus has changed everyone’s lives and most long for a return to normality.

But @TheFarhanSheikh said they believed people were changed for the long haul.