Senators believe ABS-CBN fate sets ‘dangerous’ precedent on future media franchises

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 10) — A number of senators said the decision of a House of Representatives committee on Friday to reject ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation's franchise application set a “dangerous precedent” to other media groups.

In a statement, Senator Grace Po said the shutdown of the media giant will have a bearing on proposed legislative franchises in the future.

“The House has indeed set a high and unforgiving bar in approving franchises. This may affect current active franchises,” Poe said.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the decision “sends a chilling message" to media practitioners and journalists.

“Toe the line or get shut down. May takot at pagbabanta ang mensaheng inihahatid ng gobyerno: kapag kaaway ka, pwede kang ipasara,” she said.

[Translation: Toe the line or get shut down. There is fear and threat that goes with this message from the government: you are an enemy, you can be shut down.]

Meanwhile, Senator Richard Gordon said that the decision of the majority of the House panel on legislative franchises would leave a “bad taste in mouth.”

“It will really leave a bad taste in the mouth in terms of perception, they will not get away from it. The perception is that ABS-CBN was closed because, perhaps, they were having disagreement with the current administration. You cannot close that perception,” he told CNN Philippines.

The lawmakers also raised their concerns regarding most of the 11,000 employees of ABS-CBN who will lose their jobs in the middle of a pandemic.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said in a separate statement that workers in the media company will suffer the consequences of the “unfortunate and politically-charged event.”

“The 11,000 workers losing jobs next month have families to feed, rent and mortgages to pay and children to send to schools. They will suffer the consequences of the decision of the House of Representatives,” Drilon said.

Voting 70-11, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises denied the consolidated bills which would have granted ABS-CBN a new license to resume broadcast operations.