WARNING: This article will harass some people who will be slain and burned by the author. He is assured that he neither associates himself with the network nor he favors it. Reader discretion is so definitely advised.
44 YEARS AGO today, ABS-CBN 2 was shut down without notice; viewers at that time became perplexed until that evening when President Ferdinand Marcos appeared and explained to his people; he declared Martial Law throughout the entire country ensuring safety from the preceding chronicles of rebellion and unrest.
However, such “quelling” was actually a forceful military takeover of their assets. Of course, it returned back to their pre-martial law owners in 1986 and nine years later, the franchise was granted by 9th Congress and ratified through Republic Act 7966 on March 30, 1995.
Everything is as good as it should be. However, the granted franchise has a provision that will last for 25 years or until March 30, 2020 — less than four years from now.
With that remaining time, extremely critical yet ignorant and irrational netizens are wishing Mother Ignacia bad karma without knowing the real process.
Here on Timow’s Turf, we will get to the bottom of this to determine the fatal path within Mother Ignacia.
Franchise & license, distinguished
Most die-hard network supporters — from both the Kapamilya and the Kapuso — couldn’t see the difference between a franchise and a license.
Both of them are renewable and are classified nominally as intangible assets but the common difference is that the franchise must go on a normal legislative process as ordinary bills do: proceed in three readings of one house of Congress, repeat it on the other, reconcile in the Bicameral Conference Committee (if conflicts persist) and affix the President’s signature.
After granting the Congressional franchise, according to a Facebook conversation with Rinalyn Santos, economic viability and technical study would be made. If the study is found out to be feasible, the franchised entity must form their legal counsel (i.e. hire some lawyers) to attend three hearings in order to approve the broadcast license from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
When it comes to life expectancy, a franchise lasts 25 years while a license lasts 3 years.
If the license is expired, it will be treated as a pirated broadcast because channel frequencies are considered state resources. An expired franchise will forcefully dissolve the general broadcasting operations of the entity.
In short, franchise is a proof of eligibility to broadcast in different platforms while license affirms its transmission.
On a Philippine Daily Inquirer article published last June 11, Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao and Baguio City Rep. Nicasio Aliping filed their own versions of the renewal bill in 2014 to the 16th Congress but the network in hot water claimed that it was pulled out due to time constraints.
A member of the House in the committee of legislative franchise said that the renewal was timed to “avoid the risk of having to go through the process under an unfriendly administration.”
The aforementioned article reported strong objections of renewal come from:
- cable operators demanding a public hearing, and
- Former President Aquino’s allies in the House (because of the criticisms against him were “too personal and offensive and went to the point of nitpicking.”)
The news item added that without the franchise committee’s approval, ABS-CBN’s application for renewal “could not be tackled in the plenary.”
Had it hurdled over, political pessimists would’ve knew it better. Solons would’ve abused parliamentary procedures by postponing or evading debates on them or avoid the plenary session in order to miss the quorum and make alibis and/or doze off in Batasang Pambansa, splurging taxpayer’s money and earning the taxpayers’ ire.
However, Mother Ignacia’s public relations (PR) department replied that the chance of non-renewal is “purely speculative.”
Gov’t looks on standards not competition
The national government is presently implemented the broadcasting standards of the television industry (regulations from the NTC and supplementary guidelines from the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas in addition to their Broadcast Code) but not looking on the competitive nature — particularly if one is DTV-ready and sustainable in the long run — without initiating any further state intervention.
Right now, President Rodrigo Duterte isn’t keen on overseeing such activity. But what if he did? He would call on certain members of his Cabinet — particularly, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and their attached agencies — to go on benchmarking. They can learn from the case in Hong Kong, particularly, the case of Asia Television (ATV).
Grudge match: ATV (HK) vs. ABS-CBN (PH)
ATV was founded in 1957 as the first free-to-air TV network in the then sole British colony of East Asia. In the early 2000s, the quality of programming was deteriorated and they bowed down the ratings game to the biggest rival, Television Broadcasts Ltd (TVB). The early 2010s saw the domination of criticisms and claims against the progenitor network from Hong Kongers to Beijing’s Central Government. In 2015, the SAR government decided not to renew their franchise following low ratings, less revenue generation and less credibility. Last April, the company relegated to production house and their frequencies (both analog and digital) were given to the government-owned RTHK (analog) for the first time to earn their television service and ViuTV (digital) after 59 years. Digital television there is still in transition and would be completed by 2020, the same year as the Philippines will attain.
Yet, this is not the case of ABS-CBN; they are the consistent massive revenue rider — a cash cow, if you can call it — despite the criticisms in news and entertainment. They are consistent both in the national ratings and trending topics. Not to mention, they are absolutely advantageous among major networks in almost every repertoire of broadcasting services and functions. Emulating the Hong Kong’s case, ABS would’ve surpassed the hurdle — operations and finance wise — and have another chance to run 25 more years but IBC 13 would’ve been the victim.
Who started the cyber fire?
Millennials, in general, are the ones said to be blamed for igniting the flame of irrational bandwagon against Mother Ignacia. However, the Turf identified significant groups who are responsible for the mess, such as:
- President Duterte’s extreme supporters
- Solid GMA fantards
- Factional “One with EVM” loyalists of Iglesia ni Cristo
- Die-hard Marcos apologists (born after 1986)
Such groups are responsible of trading their own senses of morality, history and civility from their years of formal schooling for partaking such cause.
They have common symptomatic behaviors that grabs attention to convince others such as:
- Uttering words such as “bias(ed),” “bayaran” (paid hack), commenting reactively with derisory English proficiency and jumping hastily to conclusions
- Imposing death threats to the entity, their employees & supporters and/or engaging actual violence against them (actually happened last August 2015 in EDSA and May 2016 in Shrine Hills, Davao)
- Denouncing all the acts of the previous administration — including his accomplishments — while glorifying and inducing them unconditionally to the incumbent (even the most blundering and consequential acts)
- Judging others with differing opinions & showcasing alternatives and practicing false dilemma fallacy
- Insinuating others to “do research” while indoctrinating unverifiable “facts” containing vast conspiracy and extreme historical revisionism found on videos and memes in social media (a.k.a. TL;DR syndrome)
Such tactics emanate cringe that would soon be emulated with bipolarity for non-violent and constructive critics.
Different uncomfortable paths
Unless the franchise renewal process is unqualified (i.e. clear of any conflicts), there may be two uncomfortable scenarios to address.
Hidden adverse action
Being dubbed least of two evils, this process will not much be a concern for masses but not for some veteran and pretentious political analysts.
In this scenario, after going on a normal legislative process, President Duterte will reluctantly sign the renewal bill but the influential motive would be credited to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez, a member of the family that owns the enterprise at stake. She would plead and peddle the President over the bill but she would be under fire for conflict of interest.
This is where their legions, as mentioned earlier, stand. If the 17th Congress fails to act on renewal like the last one earlier, there will be consequences for Mother Ignacia.
Aside from the main channel (VHF 2) in Manila that would be disappear, her sister channel S+A 23, her free-to-air regional channels, her cable channels (including the ABS-CBN Regional Channel) and exclusive digital sub-channels on their TV Plus will follow suit.
The lifeblood and the support of the entity, the talents, will definitely be affected with a massive displacement. The case of Kris Aquino (officially) leaving ABS-CBN after 20+ years earlier this month will not be counted but of course, she will be lamented for the loss.
If the Turf is given varying perspective of each individual from different spectrum of talents, here’s their possible course come 2020:
- Vice Ganda (one of the President’s endorser during his campaign) would stay to its new owner or move to PTV 4 or IBC 13 where the latter would’ve go back on their feet. Other celebrities would consider going freelance or would resort back to their own ordinary lives.
- News anchors like Noli De Castro and Karen Davila would be forced to move to another network — either here or abroad.
- Anjo Bagaoisan (Pinoyjourn), a news talent (not a reporter), would find a new employer with a similar line like Rappler or set up his own media production house.
DJ Chacha of MOR 101.9 might need to apply on another radio station like RX 93.1 to replace DJ Delamar (motherhood commitment), Bea Fabregas (tending to greener pastures) and the controversial Karen Bordador (jailed for drug use) and/or write a novelty book like from their radio show’s The Morning Rush.
- In the AM radio counterpart, DZMM Radyo Patroller Hajji Kaamino would probably go back home to Channel 4 or its AM counterpart DZRB or would be transferred to CNN Philippines.
- Jason Telmo (from their creative team, well known as the founder of NoyTube) would set up his own production house after layoff.
After the employees and talents receive their last paychecks, seizure of broadcasting assets will happen, preferably by auction like Channel 13 did by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) earlier this month but this time, the giant will be definitely felt across the country and the diaspora (OFWs). Fortunate to say, Mother Ignacia is not delinquent in paying their taxes than those in Broadcast City.
Other related ventures such as Sky Cable would be separated and may continue provide the same service as long as they have their distinctive license permitting to do so but their own digibox, the TV Plus, would be enforced to be impartial than to be exclusive as it was before.
Some websites and social media accounts will remain functional but it will be treated evenly as Rappler does. ABS-CBN Sports will either be dissolved or will relegate into a block timer equal to the status of ATC Sports (still with IBC) and Sports Vision (was with PTV and GMA “News” TV).
Other divisions such as film (Star Cinema), music (Star Music) and print publishing will continue to function.
What’s next for the Lopezes?
With the millennials — including the hostile keyboard warriors — with shorter attention span and volatile memory handling are about to take over and control the future of the Philippine society, a wake up call is now blaring over Sec. Gina’s family and their mass media conglomerate. What happened back to them in 1972 was of an extra-legal force but what will happen come 2020 will be of legal process on the democratic era.
What will be fate of the next four years in their business is who knows. Until that time comes to their favor, they’ll stick to the principle of carpe diem (seize the day) — live until that fatal date comes.
If they finally surpassed the hurdle, it’ll be the best time for renewal of trust and reform in operations, especially in the television venture under the steering of Carlo L. Katigbak. Yet we know unsurprisingly that it’ll be just wishful thinking and will continue with their love of profiteering over quality programming.
Moving right along as we wrap up the thought, let the Turf answer President Duterte’s assertion that a bona fide media outlet to be a “partner for change” in his first State of the Nation Address last July. While such assertion will hopefully stay true, the same must never forget that they are also partners for accountability, integrity, impartiality and responsibility — for better, for worse, for now and for what’s yet to come.
It’s better to act now than on the last minute.
- ABS-CBN Broadcasting Center: Inquirer.net
- Facebook conversation: Rinalyn Santos
- ATV Studios, Hong Kong: The Nanfang
- Keyboard warriors: Vulcanpost.com
- DENR Sec. Gina Lopez: The Summit Express
- Vice Ganda: philnews.ph
- DJ Chacha: @mor1019chacha Twitter account
- President Duterte’s First SONA: Rappler / RTVM