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ABS-CBN franchise renewal sought to revive after typhoon Odette onslaught

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Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives revived calls on Thursday for ABS-CBN Corp to be granted a broadcast franchise, citing the void left by its shutdown in coverage of the effects of Typhoon Odette.

Rep. Eufemia Cullamat of the Bayan Muna party-list said there has been little information on the effects of last week’s typhoon in the Visayas and Mindanao.

“Ramdam ng taumbayan ang pagkawala ng ABS-CBN Regional Network [Group] dahil ito ang nagbibigay ng komprehensibong balita at impormasyon sa bawat rehiyon hinggil sa mga pangyayari sa iba’t-ibang dako ng bansa (The public felt the absence of ABS-CBN Regional Network Group because it provides comprehensive news and information in every region on what’s happening in the country.),” Cullamat said in a press briefing.

Cullamat stated that the media plays an important role in times of disaster, and that it has the potential to save lives.

Rep. Sarah Elago of the Kabataan party-list agreed.

According to ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro, information provided by the ABS-CBN Regional Network Group could expedite disaster response.

“Ngayon, nakita natin ang kabagalan ng Duterteng palpak sa pagtugon sa pandemiya at palpak sa pagtugon sa disaster (Now, we can see the Duterte [administration’s] failed response to the pandemic and failed response to the disaster),” she said.

Rep. Carlos Zarate of the Bayan Muna party-list praised ABS-CBN for being among the first to reach Odette-ravaged areas despite not having a franchise, “May dala silang satellite phones. Ito dapat ay isang basic na equipment sa mga lugar na tinatamaan ng kalamidad (They brought satellite phones. This should be a basic equipment in areas hit by calamities.)”

Vice President Leni Robredo had also said the broadcast shutdown of ABS-CBN and its regional networks is highlighted during times of disaster such as Typhoon Odett, “Napakahirap pong magpadala ng mga pictures except ‘yong mga galing doon na nakalabas na. Kahit kami na nandoon, mahirap mag-communicate dito. Ito po, very common na sinasabi sa amin na, ‘Wala na kasing ABS-CBN, so wala na sa aming nagko-cover’ (It was very hard to send pictures except for those who already got out. We found it hard to communicate when we were there. Telling us that ‘Because there’s no more ABS-CBN, so there’s nobody covering our situation here’ was very common.)”

Despite being cleared by regulatory agencies of alleged violations of media ownership and tax rules, among other things, a House of Representatives panel denied the company’s application for a new franchise in July 2020.