“The power of media should be a public trust that embodies the highest standards of professionalism that strengthens and protects our democratic institutions in an environment of truth and dedication to the betterment of society”
The recent announcement of the TV5 Network Inc. led by MediaQuest Holdings chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan with Lopez led ABS-CBN is a very positive development that has sent a wave of excitement to millions of Filipinos exasperated by the highly politicized closure of the free-broadcast franchise of Channel 2, then the dominant player in the Philippine broadcast industry.
In February 2020, the NTC and the Office of the Solicitor General issued a cease-and-desist order after renewal of ABS-CBN’s network franchise license was denied.
This created a crisis that, according to data from independent ratings firms Nielsen and Kantar Media, greatly affected the viewing habits of Filipinos who were avid followers of Channel 2 programs.
Their favorite entertainment channel was suddenly gone, and even more damaging was the loss of the main and only source of news in many regions. The country’s viewing audience was cut by half.
Analysts observed a “chilling effect” of Philippine media seeing how the congressional power to award broadcast franchises can be weaponized to target media organizations the administration would consider to be antagonistic or for some reason has angered the politicians in power.
House of Representatives Chairman of the Committee on Legislative Franchises, Rep. Gus Tambunting, said in a recent interview that he saw the merger of TV5 and ABS CBN as an investment agreement and simple business venture that aimd to leverage the complementing potential of two legitimate networks.
“In my opinion, this is just a simple business transaction wherein there is one company with a free channel and franchise, while another company formerly had a franchise and formerly featured good content. On a business point of view, it seems very sensible to give space to the former leading network. This can be a very good business venture. One has the airspace, and the other carries the content,” said Chairman Tambunting.
As convenor of consumer advocacy group CitizenWatch Philippines, we have expressed our support of this joining of forces of two of the country’s most influential broadcast networks –
optimistic that this will elevate the quality of Philippine entertainment, public service programming, and promote constructive dialogue on issues of national importance.
This is most timely as we live in critical and in the most difficult times of crises when the shift to online platforms of interaction has been invaded by dark agents of disinformation who are out to replace the truth with relentless messages of deception to serve politically motivated agenda.
Bantay Konsyumer, Kalsada, Kuyente (BK3) convenor Louie Montemar, in a published statement, likewise lauded the merger as “an opportunity to create a new brand of credible public service that would deliver not just entertainment but would hopefully become a developmental medium of education and good values freely accessible to Filipinos wherever they may be in the archipelago.”
This is indeed a great opportunity that gives hope to thousands of families affected when ABS CBN went off the air.
The advertising industry lost the leading broadcast platform of the country’s biggest advertisers which counts the leading enterprises in retail, food and beverage, telecommunications, automotive, financial service institutions, pharmaceutical, and more.
This disrupted the whole ecosystem of linked businesses providing creative and production services.
Expectedly, the proponents that denied the ABS-CBN closure will move to block the joint venture with TV5 and raise legal issues.
Infrawatch PH convenor Atty. Terry Ridon said in an interview that the ABS-CBN and TV5 merger will hurdle anticipated competition issues already being raised by critics calling on the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to investigate the deal.
“We don’t see any basis for PCC to strike the deal, as this does not involve a transaction which will reduce or limit competition. In fact, when ABS-CBN lost its franchise in 2020, it ceased to be the dominant player in the broadcast segment. TV5 has not yet attained that dominant status in the same sector,” Ridon said.
He points out that the transaction does not meet the current P50 billion threshold for compulsory review.
I believe that realizing a successful synergy between ABS-CBN and TV5 must be seen from a developmental lens that would result a new level of quality, discipline, and trust in public service programming.
This is especially critical during these times of more frequent calamities where access to accurate information can save many lives.
What started as primarily an entertainment medium that has now reached almost every home, the license to operate television networks should not be influenced by political gate keepers.
The power of media should be a public trust that embodies the highest standards of professionalism that strengthens and protects our democratic institutions in an environment of truth and dedication to the betterment of society.