Senate renews franchises for 8 radio, television networks

The Senate approved today on third and final reading several bills that would renew for another 25 years the franchises of eight radio and television broadcasting corporations.

The Senate passed House Bills No. 5064, 4636, 5063, 5177, 5212, 5175, 5176, and 5211, which would renew the franchises of Subic Broadcasting Corp., Iloilo Baptist Church, Inc., Pangasinan Gulf Waves Network, Corp., Infocom Communications Network, Filipinas Broadcasting Association, Inc., Beta Broadcasting System, Inc., Sarraga Integrated Management Corporation of the Philippines, and Gateway Television Broadcasting, Inc., respectively.

Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services, said that the eight broadcast corporations were “relatively small compared to the big broadcast and telecom giants that dominate the airwaves.”

However, she said that the franchises would include the same reforms and amendments introduced with the recently passed franchises of GMA-7 and Smart Communications, “which have gone through exhaustive deliberations in the Senate.”

Under the new amendments, Poe said that the eight franchises were now required “to provide, free of charge, adequate public service time to enable the government to reach pertinent populations.”

“We have provided that public service time should be equivalent to 10 percent of the paid commercials or advertisements, which shall be allocated based on need to the executive, legislative, judiciary, constitutional commissions, and even international humanitarian organizations duly recognized by law,” she said.

The bills also mandated the franchisees to comply with labor standards and pertinent tax laws, and included a provision on compliance with mobile number portability standards in the future.

According to Poe, they deleted some provisions in the broadcasting franchises which they found to be “unnecessary or burdensome to the franchisees,” such as the provision that would have penalized broadcast franchises for failing to submit their report to Congress.

“Most of the franchises are located in the provinces, and I believe we should give them leeway in the submission of their documents,” Poe said.

Poe said that under the bills, franchisees that would fail to commence operations within one year from the approval of their operating permit by the National Telecommunications Commission, or fail to operate within three years from the effectivity of their act “will have their franchises revoked.”

“I think this penalty serves as a sufficient safeguard to ensure that franchisees take the privilege granted to them seriously,” Poe concluded.

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