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NTC to stop ABS-CBN's airing over Channel 43

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The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) said it will issue an "alias" cease and desist order to halt the operations of Channel 43, which ABS-CBN uses to broadcast its ABS-CBN TV Plus programs, following the expiration of the network's franchise.

During the continuation of the House joint panel hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise issue, Anakalusugan party-list Representative Mike Defensor raised the network's continuous airing of its content through digital TV.

Defensor questioned the NTC why it allowed ABS-CBN to continue airing programs through digital TV using the same frequency and the franchise that has already expired, saying that it was a violation of the constitutional provision that only Congress can grant a franchise.

NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, in response, said that Channel 43 was covered in the original cease and desist order it issued to ABS-CBN last May 5.

He said Channel 43 was assigned to Amcara Broadcasting Network, which he claimed is a sister company of ABS-CBN, and through which the latter airs digital TV.

"Ngayon, nag-issue kami ng cease and desist order against ABS-CBN na huwag na silang umere dahil paso na ang kanilang franchise noong May 5, 2020. Kasama dito dapat ang Channel 43 dahil yung kanilang provisional authority, sinabi doon na ang digital TV ng ABS-CBN ay Channel 43," Cordoba said.

"Sa madaling salita, yung pag-ere ng ABS-CBN ng digital TV sa Channel 43 ay kasama sa CDO dahil ang franchise na ginamit nila for digital broadcasting ay yung ABS-CBN," he added.

Cordoba said when they learned that ABS-CBN was still airing programs through Channel 43, the NTC sought advice from the Office of the Solicitor General on what steps they could take.

The OSG, he said, told them just this morning they could issue an alias cease and desist order to reiterate the inclusion of Channel 43 in the original cease and desist order.

"Tinignan namin sa aming rules, wala sa aming rules ang alias cease and desist order pero alam naman namin na ang rules of court ay suppletory dito sa aming rules kaya ito ngayon ay inaaral na ng aming legal department," Cordoba said.

"At kung sakaling okay naman ang kanilang pag-aaral ay we will issue yung aming alias cease and desist order," he added.

But upon pressing from Defensor, Cordoba committed that they would issue the alias cease and desist order to stop the operations of Channel 43.

"Ang commitment mo, ngayong hapon, ihihinto mo lahat ng programa at ilalabas mo yang alias cease and desist order dahil yan ang guidance ng Solicitor General," Defensor asked Cordoba, to which the latter said, "Yes."

'Channel 43 not covered in original CDO'

ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak, however, said that the original cease and desist order does not cover Channel 43.

He said that while Channel 43 was temporarily assigned to ABS-CBN for its digital broadcasts in the past, the network was eventually given Channel 16 and Channel 43 was given to Amcara.

"Amcara Broadcasting is not owned by ABS-CBN. The reason that you continue to see our channels with TV Plus is we have a block-time arrangement with Amcara," Katigbak said.

"A block-time agreement is a standard commercial agreement where a company is allowed to buy airtime from a duly-licensed broadcaster and to air programs," he added.

Cordoba insisted that Channel 43 was covered under the original cease and desist order.

"Kasama sa cease and desist order ang pag-ere ng ABS-CBN under Channel 43. Sa ikalawang pahina, nandoon TV stations 87-006 Channel 2. Noong binigyan ng digital TV si Channel 2, ang kanilang simulcast ay Channel 43," he said.

Katigbak, nevertheless, said ABS-CBN is "willing to subject" to whatever the decision of NTC will be.

"Yung hinihingi lang po namin is to make sure we are given due process so we have the right venue to express our position on this matter," he said.

"Whatever decision the NTC comes up with, we will respect the regulatory agency po," he added.

Blocktime deal

Cavite Representative Crispin Remulla, meanwhile, is not convinced with Katigbak's explanation that ABS-CBN has a blocktime agreement with Amcara allowing the former to broadcast programs on Channel 43.

"There is another violation being committed by ABS-CBN in the sense that they are allowing the usufruct, they are now engaging in the usufruct of another franchise. That usufruct has not been approved by the Committee on [Legislative] Franchises," he said.

"Itong blocktime arrangement, ito ay palusot lang. Kasi ang nangyayari ay ginagamit pa rin nila yung public frequency to broadcast ABS-CBN content and no amount of commercial arrangement para sila ay makapag-broadcast nang legal," he added.

Katigbak was quick to refute Remulla, saying that a blocktime agreement is common in the broadcasting industry, and it is not only ABS-CBN that enters into such agreements.

The House Committee on Legislative Franchises and on Good Government and Public Accountability began hearing the bills granting another 25-year franchise to ABS-CBN after the House leadership decided to drop the measure that would supposedly give the network a provisional franchise until October 31, 2020.

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