The call for ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal has snowballed, with fans of ABS-CBN network, international journalists, and even solons urging the Congress leadership to prioritize the TV network’s franchise bills on its agenda.
Members of fan groups Laban Kapamilya and Kapamilya Online Community have publicly showed their support to have ABS-CBN’s franchise renewed, following last week’s pronouncement of entertainment industry workers, including Coco Martin, Joel Lamangan, and Ricky Lee of Artists Task Force Chacha, of their appeal to the Lower House.
The fan groups joined the silent protest of the National Union of Journalists (NUJP), College Editors Guild of the Philippines, and Defend Job Philippines held outside the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City last Friday to light candles and continue the petition for the granting of renewed franchise for the company.
A Paris-based organization of international journalists called Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also expressed their backing to the network, calling on the Philippine Congress to “ensure the survival of ABS-CBN . . . by renewing its franchise.”
“As the leading TV and radio network, offering independent, verified news and information free of charge to millions of citizens, ABS-CBN plays an absolutely fundamental democratic role in the Philippines,” said Daniel Bastard, head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.
The organization urged Rep. Franz Alvarez, chair of the House committee on legislative franchises, to immediately put the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise on the House agenda. Bastard added, “The credibility of Philippine democracy and the balance between the different powers is at stake.”
Nine bills in total have been filed in Congress aimed at renewing the broadcast network’s franchise. Rep. Edcel Lagman also filed a resolution urging said House committee to “report without further delay” for plenary action a consolidated version of the pending bills seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise.
However, Bayan Muna Representatives Carlos Zarate and Ferdinand Gaite pointed out that to date, the House panel chaired by Rep. Alvarez still has not set hearings on the ABS-CBN franchise bills, despite the House’s Lenten adjournment being scheduled on March 14.
“We hope that the Speaker and [Alvarez] can immediately remedy this and set a hearing for next week. Time is of the essence and we must assert the independence of the House and its stand to uphold press freedom,” Zarate said.
Speaker of the House Alan Peter Cayetano, meanwhile said in an interview last month that there is enough time to discuss the franchise bill in the Lower House.
Several other groups previously voiced support for the media company’s franchise renewal, including alliance groups Green Thumb Coalition and Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), highlighting ABS-CBN’s efforts to communicate the importance of environment protection and conservation through its relevant news reporting, educational shows, and public service programs.
Meanwhile, another media workers group Concerned Artists of the Philippines also called on their fellow actors, producers, and other media workers to “encourage more Filipinos to rally against what NUJP describes as a ‘rape of democracy.’”