Wednesday, July 1, 2020

NTC stops ABS-CBN’s TVPlus shows, Sky Direct

MANILA, Philippines — The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered ABS-CBN Corp. to stop airing shows on TVPlus in Metro Manila and its subsidiary SkyCable Corp. to cease the operation of its direct-to-home satellite service.

The NTC, which on May 5 shut down ABS-CBN following the expiration of the network’s franchise, yesterday issued two new cease and desist orders (CDOs) against the network and its pay television and broadband arm.?First, the NTC ordered ABS-CBN’s SkyCable to cease and desist operating its direct broadcast satellite service.

The order only covers SKYdirect, which is the direct-to-home satellite service of SkyCable.

ABS-CBN said it has 1.5 million Skydirect subscribers to date.

According to the NTC, SkyCable no longer has valid and subsisting congressional franchise to install, operate and maintain a direct broadcast satellite service following the expiration of the company’s legislative franchise on May 4.

SkyCable is directed to show cause in writing within 10 days from receipt of the order on why the radio frequencies assigned to it should not be recalled for lack of necessary congressional franchise as required by law.
“Failure to file an answer within the period herein granted shall be considered the respondents’ waiver of its right to be heard, and the commission shall render judgment as the law and evidence may warrant,” the NTC said.

SkyCable is also ordered by the NTC to refund to all its subscribers unconsumed prepaid loads, deposits on subscriber equipment and devices, deposit or advance payment in monthly charges for postpaid subscribers and charges collected from new applicants.

Meanwhile, the NTC also ordered ABS-CBN to cease and desist from operating digital TV transmission in Metro Manila using Channel 43.

This refers to the ABS-CBN-owned channels CineMo!, Yey!, DZMM TeleRadyo and KBO, which are currently airing on TVPlus.

“In an order dated May 14, 2019, the commission granted respondent ABS-CBN authority to convert its analog TV service in Metro Manila (Channel 2) to digital terrestrial television (DTT) using Channel 43,” the NTC said.

“This authority granted to respondent ABS-CBN is included in the list of radio and TV stations directed to cease and desist from operating in an order dated May 5, 2020.

Hence, order dated May 5, 2020 necessarily includes DTT transmission in Metro Manila using Channel 43, and ABS-CBN Corp. should immediately cease and desist from operating Channel 43,” the regulator added.
TVPlus was launched by ABS-CBN in 2015 as part of the government’s mandate to shut down analog broadcast and shift to digital.

As of end-November, ABS-CBN has sold 8.9 million TVPlus boxes.

NTC officials were not answering calls for further clarifications on the order.

ABS-CBN and SkyCable said they would comply with the NTC orders.

“While Channel 43 is not mentioned in NTC’s cease and desist order of May 5, 2020 and it is ABS-CBN’s informed understanding that Channel 43 is not included in the CDO, digital TV transmission in Metro Manila using Channel 43 will cease tonight (June 30), consistent with the intent of the alias CDO,” ABS-CBN said in a statement.

It said 4.4 million home will be affected with the shutdown of Channel 43.

Aside from stopping the operations of its direct broadcast satellite service, SkyCable said it would also refund all unconsumed prepaid loads and advance postpaid payments to subscribers.

SkyCable, however, emphasized that SKYdirect’s 1.5 million subscribers nationwide, including those in remote areas that do not receive television signals, would be deprived of access to the channels that it carries that bring them news, information, education and entertainment.
“In the spirit of fairness, we continue to appeal to the NTC to extend the same privilege given in the past to other companies whose franchises have expired but are currently pending in Congress to continue its operations until a resolution is passed,” SkyCable said.

“We assure our subscribers that we will exhaust all legal remedies to resume our services,” it said.

ABS-CBN said it is hoping that its pending petition with the Supreme Court questioning the NTC’s cease and desist order would be resolved soon in its favor so that it can resume broadcasting on both analog and digital platforms.

Meanwhile, lawmakers admonished NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba for allowing ABS-CBN to resume operations even as its franchise expired on May 4.

“We have a ripe case for the ombudsman here. In this instance, I am endorsing a graft case against the NTC chief for allowing and tolerating ABS-CBN to operate for eight weeks even with an expired franchise,” House Deputy Majority Leader Jesus Crispin Remulla said.

This developed after Cordoba admitted that the TV giant’s use of Channel 43 is covered by the NTC’s cease and desist order.

“Yes, the TV airing is a violation of our CDO,” Cordoba said, adding the NTC did not act right away and had to consult the Office of the Solicitor General as it might affect the case filed before the Supreme Court.

Rep. Mike Defensor, chairman of the House public accounts committee, said Cordoba’s action constituted “usurpation of our power to grant a legislative franchise” and an “infringement or encroachment of the powers of Congress” to grant franchises to broadcasting stations.

But Marcoleta, to whom Cordoba gave a briefing paper about the issue June 10, was harsh.

“He (Cordoba) should resign because he’s not doing his job. It has been 19 days. It’s as if he has been insulting our intelligence here. There was no TRO from SC. So why do you have to issue an alias CDO?” Marcoleta said.

ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak said the CDO did not cover Channel 43, which is operated by Amcara Broadcasting network.

The Lopezes used to own 49 percent of Amcara stocks – from 1996 to 2019 – wherein they had a “block-timer arrangement.”

Katigbak said that in the past, the NTC and Congress permitted other broadcasting companies with expired congressional franchises to continue airing until such time that the franchise renewal application is approved or denied.

“We ask permission that the same privilege be accorded to ABS-CBN in the spirit of fairness,” Katigbak said.

Despite Cordoba’s insistence, Katigbak said Channel 43 was “not covered by the CDO.”

A lawyer for the network, along with Katigbak, confirmed that Amcara – which they now claim to have shares of 10 percent from ABS-CBN – was once owned by the Lopezes and whose office address is similar to that of the network in Quezon City.

“No amount of palusot (excuse) will be enough to allow this arrangement. They don’t have a right to broadcast, period. This block time arrangement is just a poor excuse,” Remulla told the panel headed by Reps. Franz Alvarez and Jonathan Sy-Alvarado.

Source: Richmond Mercurio