On July 10, 2020, the House of Representatives’ committee on legislative franchises denied the application of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest television and radio network, for an extension of its franchise for another 25 years, drastically changing the media landscape in the Philippines.
The denial of the franchise sealed the cease and desist order issued on May 5, 2020 by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), which compelled the giant network to sign off its free TV and radio operations, including its regional stations that were vital in connecting remote areas of the country to the nation’s capital.
The shutdown displaced around 11,000 workers at a time the country was grappling with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic that was taking a heavy toll on the economy.
The shutdown was the culmination of President Rodrigo Duterte’s incessant attacks against the media giant, which he blamed for airing TV ads of political enemies.
Among the issues tackled by the congressional committees in an inquiry were alleged violations under ABS-CBN’s previous franchise, such as not following the prescribed process for the return of assets from the government to the network post-martial law, citizenship, labor malpractices, tax avoidance, use of Philippine Depositary Receipts, and biased reporting.
The allegations were debunked by verified documents and testimonies of government officials. Still, the legislators voted 70-11 to deprive ABS-CBN of a franchise.
Without a franchise, ABS-CBN has gone online for both its news and entertainment productions where it enjoys high viewership in several social media platforms – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Tiktok.
On October 10, 2020 it launched A2Z Channel 11 as its temporary terrestrial channel space through a blocktime agreement between ABS-CBN Corporation and ZOE Broadcasting Network. Some of its programs are shown on TV5.