Cable operators warn of ‘insertions’ in ABS-CBN franchise renewal

Cable operators warn of ‘insertions’ in ABS-CBN franchise renewal

MANILA – A group of small and medium cable services providers called out the possible granting of multiple broadcast frequencies to media giant ABS-CBN due to a provision added into a House Bill (HB) seeking the company’s renewal of franchise.

During the ‘Pandesal Forum’ in Quezon City on Monday, Estrellita “Neng” Juliano–Tamano, national chairperson of the Federation of International Cable Television and Telecommunications Association of the Philippines (FICTAP), said HB 4997-2014 was worded almost exactly similar to ABS-CBN’s previous franchise—Republic Act 7966— signed by former president Fidel Ramos in 1995.

However, she said HB 4997-2014, filed by then Isabela 4th District Representative Giorgidi Aggabao, added the phrase, “where frequencies and/or channels are still available for radio and/or television broadcasting, including digital television system.”

Worried kami kasi (We’re worried because) this is already plural; they are applying for two or more frequencies. Kung ano ang available pa na frequency (Whatever frequency is available),” Tamano said.

While HB 4997-2014 did not get past the House committee level, FICTAP wanted to call the attention of lawmakers into the possible addendum to avoid unwittingly granting ABS-CBN of frequencies “worth billions”.

Pag-aralin at basahin nang mabuti po sana kung ang finile ninyo ay may dumagdag na multiple frequencies. Kapag na-approve yan sa kanila na lahat ng frequencies (Please study and read your bill carefully to see whether it’s granting multiple frequencies. If that’s approved, they could own all frequencies),” Tamano said.

She said such an occurrence could result in “billions of pesos” of losses as well as thousands of job loss in the small and medium cable TV sector as ABS-CBN’s digital television service, dubbed ‘TVplus,’ could hold a monopoly in the market.

Aside from the commercial value of broadcast frequencies, citing the sale of San Miguel Corporation’s telecommunications assets and its 700-Mhz bandwidth for over PHP75 billion, she said certain frequencies could also be used to improve the country’s telecommunications infrastructure, especially in rural areas.

Yung mga frequencies na ‘yan tumatagos sa pader, tumatagos sa bundok. Magagamit para magkaroon ng mabilis at mura na internet (Those frequencies could pass through walls, even mountains. These could be used to have faster and cheaper internet services),” Tamano said.

In February, FICTAP publicly opposed the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN, citing instances where the company illegally deployed pay-per-view (PPV) content through its TVplus service which was supposedly only granted a test broadcast license.

The company responded in a statement that its digital TV services, including its ‘Kapamilya Box Office’ channel, received the necessary government and regulatory approvals.

However, National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said ABS-CBN committed a violation when it provided PPV content since the NTC was yet to issue the implementing rules and regulations for PPV over digital TV.

He added that ABS-CBN could face a fine of PHP200 for every instance of the violation.   Raymond Carl Dela Cruz /PNA – northboundasia.com