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In Focus: Why ABS-CBN's Shutdown Is About Press Freedom More Than Just A Franchise Issue

In Focus: Why ABS-CBN's Shutdown Is About Press Freedom More Than Just A Franchise Issue

A lot has been said online about what happened with ABS-CBN's shutdown—that this was inevitable because of negligent management, that the network broke the law and had it coming, that this isn't a big deal, since there are other platforms and other channels still on air for people who need their services. It's a lot more complicated than these points, and UP College of Mass Communication Associate Dean Rachel Khan is inclined to disagree with them, too. 

Instead of press freedom just being collateral damage in a larger issue, Khan in an interview with ANC declared the situation as "a direct attack on press freedom... More than just being a franchise issue, it is the shutting down of the biggest network at a time when we really need broadcast media to be telling us what is happening."

[related: In Focus: Kapamilyas Get Creative In Condemning The ABS-CBN Closure Order]

On the topic of time, Khan mentioned that the government had four years to work on renewing ABS-CBN's franchise, "especially since the bill seeking the franchise renewal has been pending since 2016." She mentioned that "there weren't even any committee hearings (in congress) held regarding the franchise renewal" until January 2020.

The UP Journalism professor also called this the responsibility of plenty of groups other than Congress, specifically mentioning the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC). "Their (NTC) timing is really sad," she said. "I don't really see the need for them to have given a cease-and-desist order." She claimed that the cease-and-desist order was unnecessary, given that the NTC and the Kapisanan ng Brodkaster ng Pilipinas already had a memorandum of understanding in place since 1994 that had allowed "for temporary authorization should the franchise of broadcast media expire."

More than politics, however, what's still at stake is the service that ABS-CBN delivers: Information and news. The loss of ABS-CBN, Khan stressed, "leaves us, the Filipino citizens, with one less media organization that will give us credible and vetted news. I think we can't afford to have less media at this time of crisis."

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Banner image by Ajeet Mestry via Unsplash




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