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Bill clarifying broadcast companies need legislative franchise to operate filed

Deputy Speaker Prospero Pichay has filed a measure to specifically clarify that broadcast companies need to obtain a legislative franchise in order to operate.

Pichay filed House Bill 6680, which seeks to amend provisions in RA 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act, on Monday, amid the ongoing battle of broadcast giant ABS-CBN to have its franchise renewed for another 25 years.

According to Pichay, RA 7925 only mandates public telecommunications entities, and not broadcast companies, to apply for a congressional franchise.

“Under RA 7925, the terms 'telecommunications', 'broadcasting', 'public telecommunications entity' and 'franchise' were clearly defined. The definition of a public telecommunications entity does not include broadcasting, which is a separate and distinct activity. Neither does the definition of franchise include broadcast entities," he said.

“Clearly, there is a gap in the law because only public telecommunications entities are required to obtain a franchise which excludes those persons engaged in broadcasting companies," he added.

To correct this, Pichay proposed in his bill to amend Sections 1, 2, 3, and 16 of RA 7925.

In Section 1, for instance, the measure proposed to rename the law to "Public Telecommunications [Policy] and BROADCASTING ACT of the Philippines."

Section 2 will also be amended in order to cover broadcast entities in the country.

In Section 3, the definition of franchise will also be revised to "a privilege conferred upon a telecommunications entity AND A BROADCASTING (TELEVISION AND RADIO) ENTITY to Congress."

Section 16 will also be revised to state that "[n]o person shall commence or conduct the business of being a public telecommunications entity AND A BROADCAST (TELEVISION AND RADIO) ENTITY without first obtaining a franchise.”

The measure likewise proposes a transitory clause under Section 16 wherein broadcast entities with pending applications and expired or expiring franchises would be given five years to comply with the measure’s provisions.

Currently, at least 11 bills have been filed at the House of Representatives to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN, which expired on Monday.

The House Committee on Legislative Franchises held its first hearing on the bills only last March, although its chair, Palawan Representative Franz Alvarez, had already written to the National Telecommunications Commission to grant ABS-CBN a provisional authority to operate past the expiration of its franchise.

The NTC, however, issued on Tuesday a cease and desist order against ABS-CBN in the absence of a congressional franchise. —LDF, GMA News