Lawmakers vote to close down Philippines’ largest TV network

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine lawmakers voted yesterday to reject the licence renewal of the country’s largest TV network, shutting down a major news provider that had been repeatedly threatened by the President over its critical coverage.

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Franchises voted 70-11 to reject a new 25-year licence for ABS-CBN Corp. The National Telecommunications Commission had ordered the broadcaster to shut down in May after its old franchise expired. It halted broadcasting then, but the vote takes it off the air permanently.

Only the House of Representatives, which is dominated overwhelmingly by President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies, can grant or revoke such a franchise and the chance of any reversal of yesterday’s ruling is extremely low, lawmakers said.

The network, which used to be viewed daily on free channels by millions of Filipinos, has been able to continue broadcasting some of its TV and radio news programmes over paid cable channels with only a small fraction of its former massive viewership.

“We are deeply hurt,” ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak said, but suggested the company will try to find other ways to return to business.

A supporter holds a slogan that reads: “ABS-CBN workers, fight continues” during a rally outside the headquarters. PHOTO: AP