ABS CBN has enjoyed their broadcasting franchise for the last quarter century. In this time, the Lopez-owned firm has grown to dominate the Philippine media industry. Unfortunately, despite the 25 years it had to shape up its management, ABS CBN failed to live up to certain expectations, like remitting taxes to the government or providing fair working conditions for their many contractual employees. Now, the firm is facing the consequences of their biased and unfair reporting practices.
Congress is currently deliberating whether to renew ABS CBN’s franchise for another 25 years. While President Duterte has been vocal about his issues with the company, partly on the basis of their theft from the Filipino people to the tune of hundreds of millions of unpaid income taxes and partly on their obviously biased and unfair coverage of the administration, Congress has still pledged to give a fair and comprehensive review to the franchise renewal appeal.
Speaker of the House Alan Peter Cayetano guaranteed ABS CBN that the company would have its chance to defend itself. This alone should be enough for the company, especially in the face of the numerous charges it faces which would count against their renewal. But for ABS CBN’s powerful Lopez family owners, a fair trial may not be enough.
So, it’s no surprise that the Lopez family has been getting some love from pro-Communist congressmen lately.
3 months ahead of the March franchise renewal deadline, red legislators are already calling out President Duterte for supposedly attacking press freedom. It seems they would prefer that the Lopez family got their renewal automatically, with no thought put into it and with no regard given the company’s track record of mismanagement.
“If President Duterte really has a grievance against the network then he should file a case against ABS-CBN rather than trample on press freedom and the jobs of at least seven thousand employees,” Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite said in a statement on Tuesday.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Rep. France Castro also said that the administration’s “crackdown” against ABS CBN shows how the administration is supposedly silencing its critics. The same sentiments were echoed by Kabataan Partylist, another known communist-supporting group.
Of course, while ABS CBN does have one of the larger news teams in the country, they are not synonymous with press freedom or the 4th estate. There are still many media outlets which are critical of the government yet operating freely. A quick glance at the headlines of the country’s leading newspapers or online news portals would show that the media is freely exercising its voice to criticize the government.
If President Duterte has been “attacking” anything it has been the status quo of elites ruling the media. ABS CBN is owned by one of the country’s richest, oldest families – the Lopezes. Inquirer is the same. The country’s mainstream media outlets are backed by powerful, rich families with their own political agendas. Obviously, these Manila families had their plans ruined when this political “outsider” from Davao took the country’s highest post. And when that man went after their institutions for hiding decades and generations worth of corruption and shady practices, they cry that it is an attack on press freedom. But similar to the situation of the onerous water contracts the President Duterte has exposed, the elite owners of ABS CBN and all the other whiny media companies should focus on the main takeaway here: the Filipino people do not exist simply to make them richer.