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Alvarez to ABS-CBN: Franchise renewal is a privilege not a right

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The chairman of the House committee on legislative franchises on Thursday broke his silence regarding the pending franchise renewal of ABS-CBN, reminding the media network that the congressional grant of franchise “is a privilege, and not a right, under the law.”

Palawan Rep. Franz Alvarez said the House leadership has already assured ABS-CBN that it would be fair and objective in reviewing its application for the renewal of its franchise.

“The advice of Speaker Alan (Peter Cayetano) to us was to make sure that we would be always fair and impartial in reviewing the application of ABS-CBN, or the application of any other public utility, for that matter,” he said.

“At the same time it is Congress’ duty to accept complaints and hear issues brought up,” Alvarez said.

“But we should all be reminded that under the law, the grant of a franchise is not a right, but a privilege,” Alvarez added. “This is why we have to hear all sides, and find out if ABS-CBN violated the provisions of its franchise.”

ABS-CBN’s franchise to operate is set to expire in March 2020.

Under Republic Act 3846, radio and television broadcast stations are required to seek a franchise from Congress before being allowed to operate.

Alvarez pointed out that since the issue at hand is the grant of a franchise to ABS-CBN, which is a privilege, the constitutional right to press freedom is a separate concern that does not apply in this case.

“The issue involves the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN. There is no attempt to muzzle or control the media here so do not try to make this a press freedom issue when it is not,” he said.

“Does the President and many others who have made statements against Abs Cbn’s election coverage and election ad placement system, have a legitimate grievance against ABS-CBN?” he said.

“Did ABS-CBN violate the provisions of its franchise? Can ABS-CBN credibly defend its privilege of being granted a renewal of its franchise? These are just some of the questions that our committee will seek to answer when we conduct hearings on the matter once Congress resumes session three weeks from now,” Alvarez said.