On May 6, 2020, ABS-CBN went off air after years of providing news and entertainment to the public when its franchise expired. The National Telecommunication Commission has issued a cease and desist order against the company. Not wanting to tarnish its image as a wholesome network, ABS-CBN has complied with the directive without prejudice to the legal remedies available to it. With its closure, many Filipinos are aghast and frustrated.
Due to the length of ABS-CBN’s service in the broadcast industry, the giant network became a part of the psyche of the Filipino people. Its programs became a daily staple for the ordinary folks and not so ordinary folks who have nothing more to do than stay tuned to what is being fed to them by the television station. ABS-CBN influenced the lives of each and every family in ways we cannot explain. It became our guardian, mentor, teacher, baby sitter, policymaker, king maker, friend, foe, and all other patriarchal or matriarchal positions that only concerned persons can provide. It made us laugh, cry, hate, fear, love, sympathize, and believe in our emotional strengths and outbursts. There are only two ways to look into it. Either you hate it or you love it.
Understandably, many fans and patrons of ABS-CBN are up in arms. They cannot go through a day without seeing their favorite characters doing TikTok and creating memes during the daily telenovelas from 2 to 10 p.m. They cannot stand idly by without being able to listen to the voices of news anchors Noli De Castro, Ted Failon, Karen Davila, Bernadette Sembrano, etc. Without ABS-CBN, life seems incomplete. It is like seeing a bastard child being mauled into submission for no apparent reason whatsoever. This time, ABS-CBN is the underdog.
Why, in the first place, was ABS-CBN ordered to stop operating? As per the order issued by the NTC, the network cannot further broadcast its programs because its franchise expired without it being renewed. Such reason, however, raises more questions than answers.
Why was its franchise not renewed? Surely, the executives and lawyers of the corporation could not have been callously negligent not to file the application for renewal months before it expired. Considering the circumstances upon which the franchise expired, why can’t it be given a provisional permit? Other less known networks are allowed to operate while awaiting the issuance of their respective franchises. Why not ABS-CBN? After all, ABS-CBN showed exemplary fortitude in the coverage of the coronavirus disease-2019 pandemic by airing every development on a 24-hour basis. Not even the government network did that.
If we are to believe the rationale of the NTC, it does have some valid basis. Yet, we are not confining the continued operation of ABS-CBN on scant legalities or technicalities that have political implications. How can the NTC take nobility in its order that is perceived to have been based on an earlier pronouncement made by the President that for sure, the franchise of the network will not be renewed? How can the NTC have the moral ascendancy to implement an order that is as anti-people as it is unpopular? In this time of crisis, when people simply want to see normalcy restored, how will the closure of ABS-CBN be justified to the thousands of workers who depend on their employment to support themselves and their families?
The only worst incident that can equal the closure of ABS-CBN is the Covid-19. Have the powers-that-be failed to recognize this? Did they really have the best intention of the people in mind? Or was there an underlying reason behind it to soothe the wounded pride of those entrenched in position? Please be reminded that some high-profile politicians complained about their unaired campaign propagandas during the election.
As a television network, it is the prerogative of ABS-CBN to air or not to air what it wants. By the nature of its business and by the scope of its influence, it is its option who to endorse. The network, too, has its own reputation to protect and interest to promote. If it accepted payment for an advertisement, political or otherwise, and reneged on its obligation to air it, this is a contractual matter that ought to be resolved in a judicial forum and not in a vindictive manner. That way, any suspicion that its closure is politically motivated will be obviated.
ABS-CBN had undergone threats of closure and seizure in the past. The network was taken over by the Marcos administration during its time but, this did not diminish its stability. It remained strong and weathered all challenges against its existence. With its track record, it is quite certain that it will re-open in due time.Just wait and see. For the meantime, watch other networks.