Top Philippine broadcaster fights order to shut down
MANILA: The Philippines' biggest broadcaster asked the Supreme Court yesterday to quash an order by the telecoms regulator to shut down its operations, saying it undermined freedom of speech and the public right to information.
The regulator's order for ABS-CBN to cease operations after its 25-year licence expired has prompted allegations by critics of President Rodrigo Duterte that his allies are trying to intimidate the media.
The president repeatedly threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise after the channel angered him during the 2016 presidential election by refusing to air his campaign commercial.
"The continued operation of ABS-CBN is a matter of public interest and transcendental importance, it being among the largest broadcasting entities in terms of coverage and audience," the company said.
ABS-CBN Corp also asked the Supreme Court to hear its petition quickly, saying the livelihood of thousands of its employees and their families were at stake.
The 66-year-old entertainment and media conglomerate, said in its petition that it employs 11,000 people. It also operates 21 radio and 38 television stations nationwide and distributes online content.
It went off air on Tuesday to comply with the regulator's order, to widespread dismay from labour, business and media groups and opposition lawmakers. "To close ABS-CBN now when it is most needed would certainly be detrimental to the public," it said.
"ABS-CBN cannot be closed without compromising the fundamental guarantees of freedom of speech and the press."
ABS-CBN said the National Telecommunications Commission abused its discretion when it ordered its closure even after it indicated in March the company could remain on air pending its licence renewal. ABS-CBN's 25-year congressional franchise expired on May 4.
The regulator said on Wednesday it stood by its decision and that ABS-CBN could seek a temporary restraining order from a court.
Several bills extending ABC-CBN's license have been pending as a Parliament dominated by Mr Duterte's loyalists dragged its feet over renewing its franchise. - REUTERS