Santos-Recto files bill to renew ABS-CBN franchise

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 18) — A House lawmaker has filed a bill seeking the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise for 25 years.

Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto filed House Bill No. 8298 on January 5, a day after Senator Tito Sotto filed a similar bill in the Senate.

In her bill, Santos-Recto said television remains the preferred media in far-flung areas.

"ABS-CBN has remained steadfast in its commitment to reach out to as many Filipinos as possible by delivering their quality core programs closer to our countrymen by taking advantage of emerging broadcast technologies," the bill said.

Among the matters stated in the measure was that should ABS-CBN be granted the franchise, it should give an annual report on April 30 of every year to Congress to include, among others, its audited financial statements and an update of ownership undertaking if applicable.

On Jan. 4, Sotto filed Senate Bill 1967 which seeks to renew the media giant's franchise for 25 years.

"ABS-CBN's wide reach to Filipinos, alongside with the undeniable advantages of broadcast media relative to mass communication, definitely calls for the renewal of the network's franchise. Thus, the passage of this bill is earnestly sought," Sotto's bill read.

The network went off the air in May 2020 after its legislative franchise expired.

In July 2020, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises voted against granting ABS-CBN a fresh franchise. 

The technical working group's report maintained ABS-CBN does not deserve to resume broadcast operations due to various issues, including the alleged dual citizenship of its chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III, alleged tax-avoidance schemes, failure to regularize its employees, and biased reporting.

The company has denied all the allegations, and appealed to lawmakers to be granted a new franchise.

In September of the same year, the National Telecommunications Commission issued an order recalling all the frequencies or channels assigned to ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation. 

However, some ABS-CBN shows have since gone back on air starting October following a broadcast deal with Zoe Broadcasting Network, a free-to-air channel owned by the family of religious leader and CIBAC Party-list Rep. Eddie Villanueva.