Sotto files bill seeking to renew ABS-CBN's franchise

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 4) — Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III has filed a bill seeking to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN.

Sotto on Monday shared a copy of Senate Bill 1967 on his Facebook page, stating the measure aims to renew the media giant's franchise for 25 years.

"ABS-CBN's wide reach to Filipinos, alongside with the undeniable advantages of broadcast media relative to mass communication, definitely calls for the renewal of the network's franchise. Thus, the passage of this bill is earnestly sought," the bill read.

Sotto also cited that the embattled network remained a top source of news in the country, and the largest entertainment and media network across several platforms.

Senators Sonny Angara, Franklin Drilon, Grace Poe, and Kiko Pangilinan expressed their support for the measure, but said franchise bills must emanate from the House of Representatives as provided under the Constitution.

When asked if the bill has a chance of being passed, Drilon and Senator Ralph Recto said it would depend on support from the Palace.

ABS-CBN has not yet issued a statement on Sotto's bill.

The network went off the air in May 2020 after its legislative franchise expired.

In July 2020, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises voted against granting ABS-CBN a fresh franchise. 

The technical working group's report maintained ABS-CBN does not deserve to resume broadcast operations due to various issues, including the alleged dual citizenship of its chairman emeritus Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III, alleged tax-avoidance schemes, failure to regularize its employees, and biased reporting.

The company has denied all the allegations, and appealed to lawmakers to be granted a new franchise.

In September of the same year, the National Telecommunications Commission issued an order recalling all the frequencies or channels assigned to ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation.

However, some shows have since gone back on air starting October following a broadcast deal with Zoe Broadcasting Network, a free-to-air channel owned by the family of religious leader and CIBAC Party-list Rep. Eddie Villanueva.