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Philippines’ ABS-CBN closure approved

The controversial forced closure of ABS-CBN, the biggest broadcaster in the Philippines, by the country’s government has been approved.

Rodrigo Duterte

The country’s House of Representatives voted on Friday to deny the renewal of the broadcaster’s franchise, affirming a decision made by the government back in May.

The broadcaster was forced off air earlier this year in compliance with a cease and desist order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission, but it earned a brief reprieve and was able to keep broadcasting while it waited for the country’s Congress to renew its licence.

In the past, ABS-CBN has angered president Rodrigo Duterte with its coverage, and the controversial leader has attacked media outlets that have criticised his government’s bloody war on drugs. ABS-CBN refused to air Duterte’s ads during the 2016 election campaign.

After a dozen hearings and testimonies, and despite concluding that ABS-CBN had not broken any laws, 70 of the Committee on Legislative Franchises’ 85 members voted to deny the broadcaster another 25-year licence.

ABS-CBN has said the move will lead to the loss of 11,000 permanent and freelance jobs at the channel and deprive the public of news and information during the Covid-19 crisis.

CEO Carlo Katigbak said: “We are deeply hurt that the Committee on Legislative Franchises has denied the franchise application of ABS-CBN. We believe that we have been rendering a service that is meaningful and valuable to the Filipino public. Nevertheless, we would like to thank the committee for allowing us a chance to air our side on all the issues raised against us.

“ABS-CBN would like to thank all the congressmen who stood by their bills to renew our franchise, or who spoke out on our behalf during the hearings. We are forever grateful. We also thank everyone who expressed their support and offered their prayers for us. We could not have gotten to this point without you.

“We remain committed to public service, and we hope to find other ways to achieve our mission. Together with our employees and our audiences all over the world, we share in your sadness over this setback. We look forward to the day when we can again reunite under our broadcast.”

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