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Waiting for the kill! Calida warns NTC: Don’t let ABS-CBN operate after May 4 franchise expiry

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Solicitor General Jose Calida is waiting to pounce on ABS-CBN and bring the network off the air with its franchise set to expire on Monday (May 4).

Calida warned the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Sunday (May 3) against granting provisional authorities (PAs) to operate broadcasting services to ABS-CBN and its affiliate, ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc. as their application for renewal remains pending in Congress.

ABS-CBN Convergence’s franchise expired on March 17, 2020.

In a statement, Calida said NTC can only issue a PA to ABS-CBN once Congress approved a fresh, 25-year franchise for the network.

Under the law, Calida said a broadcast entity whose franchise was granted should apply for a Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) from the NTC before it can operate. Pending approval of its CPC, however, it can apply for a PA so it can start operating during the interim.

“Hence, a PA should only be issued once a congressional franchise has been granted and an application for CPC is pending before the NTC for approval,” the Solicitor General said. “The NTC cannot issue a PA when the broadcast company has no valid and existing legislative franchise.”

Calida said it is clear that ABS-CBN’s franchise will expire Monday since it hasn’t been renewed by Congress.

“The franchise ceases to exist and the entity can no longer continue its operations as a public utility,” he added.

Calida maintained that NTC cannot grant ABS-CBN a PA even if Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and other House leaders wrote the commission to allow the network to operate with an expired franchise. He said the Senate resolution on the issue also does not carry weight.

“These issuances cannot amend the current law requiring a congressional franchise for the operation of broadcasting networks. Not being separate laws themselves, they cannot amend or repeal prior laws,” he said.

Calida warned that NTC commissioners may be charged with graft should they issue PAs to ABS-CBN Corporation and ABS-CBN Convergence in the absence of franchise.

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