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A year after being shut down, ABS-CBN vows to fight on and never forget

By CHUCK SMITH Published May 05, 2021 7:10 pm

A year after Congress junked the petition of ABS-CBN to renew its franchise, the network’s remaining employees and the public at large continue to grapple with the profound implications of the country’s biggest network being cut down to size by lawmakers.

The Kapamilya network stopped its TV and radio broadcasting operations on May 5, 2020, at exactly 7:52 PM, after the National Telecommunications Communication issued a cease-and-desist order to ABS-CBN following the expiration of its 25-year legislative franchise.

The hashtag #IbalikAngABSCBN also trended on Twitter early Wednesday morning, while ABS-CBN News’ official Twitter account joined netizens in remembering the event. 

We shall not forget
In an Instagram post, newscaster Karen Davila said: “May 5, 2020. The day ABSCBN went dark. One year after. We shall not forget. Fighting, each and every day. Laban lang, Kapamilya.”

Meanwhile, ABS-CBN journalist Anjo Bagaoisan tweeted: “Isang taon nang nagdilim at pinatahimik sa himpapawid, pero kaisa ng mga Kapamilyang hindi titigil sa paghahanap ng paraan para magbalita at maglingkod.”

“Tayo sa maging matapang sa gitna ng hamon sa ating pamamahayag,” broadcast journalist Ces Drilon said in a video posted on her Twitter account. “Patuloy natin ang ating adhikain na mabigyan ng tamang impormasyon ang ating mga kababayan sa kabila ng lahat ng nangyari sa ABS-CBN.”

“Once a journalist, always a journalist, ika nga. Wala man ako diyan sa ABS-CBN, patuloy parin tayo kumikilos para sa press freedom,”  she added.

Drilon was one of the ABS-CBN workers laid off by ABS-CBN following the non-renewal of its franchise.

While it’s hard to measure the exact loss brought about by the ABS-CBN shutdown to the broadcasting industry, its effect was immediately felt.

In August 2020, after Congress denied its franchise application, ABS-CBN shut down its TV Patrol regional stations. Reports say ABS-CBN laid off over 4,000 workers because of the shutdown.

No longer what we used to be
Melissa Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, said that one of the biggest effects of the ABS-CBN shutdown is how it had cut off people—especially those outside of Metro Manila and in the regions—with their source of news. The shutdown is “one of great loss in terms of the media and the public interest,” he said.

"We do our work for the community that it serves. With the closure of ABS-CBN, which is the largest in the Philippines and a major news provider, then you have cut off all these people with their source of news,” de Jesus.

The shutdown also affected the rights of communities with the right to access information. "It’s not just the closure of ABS-CBN that is the problem; it is also the penalizing, removing of the rights of people because it disconnected them from a source of news and information.”

The non-renewal also instilled “fear” in journalists, said de Jesus. While President Rodrigo Duterte denied he had a hand in the ABS-CN’s shutdown, he had threatened to block the renewal of the network’s franchise on a number of occasions before.

Because of this, some journalists practice self-censorship. Owners of media companies may also be practicing caution in terms of the reports they release, thinking that “if you can do it to ABS-CBN, you can do it to everyone else..”

This is evident, de Jesus said, in the current reporting on the COVID19 pandemic.

“Where is the kind of coverage that provides clarity of the (government) failure, where is the discourse on this issue? We are no longer what we used to be,” she said.

De Jesus also said, “I think, in a sense, we've lost press freedom as we know it in the Philippines.” 

De Jesus added that media should build “civil and institutional alliances” that can fill up the holes the shutdown of ABS-CBN has created.

“We need a press that is strong enough to check the abuse of power,” she said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in a statement to commemorate the anniversary of the shutdown, said: "We commend the Kapamilyas who have refused to be cowed into silence...We stand with them today in the hope—the certainty—that ABS-CBN will be back on air and will continue the vital work that it has been doing to inform as well as entertain in the service of the Filipino.”

It added, "We refuse to forget how Malacañang wielded the state machinery to clamp down on one of the biggest media outlets in the country. We will not forget all those who were instrumental in this wanton violation of press freedom.”

Banner photo from Twitter/Jeff Canoy