Three of Four Filipinos Want Philippine TV Giant ABS-CBN Back

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Three out of four Philippine citizens want ABS-CBN Corp. back on the air, according to a survey.

Seventy-five percent of Filipino adults agreed Congress should renew ABS-CBN’s franchise, according to a Social Weather Stations poll released a day after lawmakers rejected the nation’s largest TV and radio network’s bid for a permit to resume broadcasting. Ten percent were undecided while 13% disagreed.

The broadcaster has been off the air for two months by order of the National Telecommunications Commission after its franchise expired on May 4, while a bill for its renewal was pending at the House of Representatives. The closure order sparked criticism of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who first threatened to block ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal in April 2017.

The survey of 1,555 adults nationwide was conducted from July 3 to July 6. More than half or 56% of respondents believe non-renewal is “a major blow to press freedom.”

Support for an ABS-CBN franchise is strong in all areas nationwide, higher in rural areas at 81%, and is at 70% in urban areas. It was also higher among women at 81%, compared to 70% among men, SWS said.

Seventy out of 84 members of a House of Representatives committee voted on July 10 to deny the franchise bid. The broadcaster can file an appeal, according to House rules, but it will be processed by the same panel.

ABS-CBN President Carlo Katigbak said in an emailed statement after the vote that the media company, which is often a target of Duterte’s attacks for alleged bias, remains committed to public service and hopes “to find other ways to achieve our mission.”

The broadcaster’s shutdown has affected 11,000 employees and cost the network as much as 35 million pesos ($707,000) in daily advertising revenues. Its shares have extended a decline since May 5 when its television and radio stations went off air.

Unless Congress can convince the public that its decision is based “on a fair review and was devoid of any political consideration, the denial of the franchise gives a chilling effect on the freedom of the press,” the Commission on Human Rights said in a statement Saturday as it stressed the importance of timely and credible information amid the pandemic.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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