House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday emphasized that the issue of ABS-CBN’s franchise was not purely a press freedom issue, as he reiterated his complaints about the network’s alleged biases in its coverage of previous elections.
“On the matter of press freedom and the need for a congressional franchise to operate, let me be clear. If the network was a purely online content provider, or an even a traditional printed newspaper they would not even need a franchise from the government to operate,” he said in a statement titled “Soul Searching In The Light of Press Freedom, Democracy, and Accountability.”
“This clearly shows that this matter has not, nor has it ever been, purely an issue of free speech or freedom of the press,” the Taguig-Pateros congressman said.
“However, when corporations use airwaves and broadcast frequencies – resources that are rightly owned by the people – these franchises come with serious responsibilities and accountabilities to the public,” Cayetano said.
He said the government, acting on behalf of the people, “cannot justify abuse of the franchise simply because it entertains the masses.”
“The franchise is not a license to do anything that they desire with their airtime – including manipulation, disinformation, and deception,” he added.
“Can anyone honestly say, after watching the coverage of the network during the 2010 and 2016 elections, that ABS-CBN did not take sides and favor any candidate? Or that personalities and politicians who through the years have had strong affinity with the station do not receive undue advantage during campaign season?” Cayetano said.
“Let me just say that this practice is prohibited by law under the Fair Elections Act. To which the network must, and will be given a chance to respond,” he said.