The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Tuesday ordered the Lopez-led SkyCable Corp.— a subsidiary of media giant ABS-CBN —to stop operating and to give back to its subscribers their unconsumed prepaid loads and subscription fees.
The legislative franchise granted to SkyCable under Republic Act 7969 expired on May 4, 2020.
“Upon the expiration of RA 7969, SkyCable Corp. no longer has a valid and subsisting congressional franchise to install, operate and maintain a direct broadcast satellite service,” the NTC said.
SkyCable, which is operating in 251 cities and municipalities throughout the country, said it will comply with the cease and desist order (CDO) stopping it from operating its direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service immediately.
But in a statement, SkyCable appealed to NTC “in the spirit of fairness… to extend the same privilege given in the past to other companies whose franchises have expired but are currently pending in Congress to continue its operations until a resolution is passed.”
“SKYdirect’s 1.5 million subscribers nationwide, including those in remote areas that do not receive television signals, will be deprived of access to the channels we carry that bring them news, information, education, and entertainment starting tonight, June 30, 2020,” it added.
Sky Cable assured subscribers “of exhausting all legal remedies to resume our services.”
In July 25, 2018, the NTC extended the provisional authority of SkyCable from June 23, 2017, up to but not beyond June 23, 2021 “subject to the applicable terms and conditions set forth in the previous provisional authority and conditioned upon compliance with the Commission’s existing rules and regulations.”
The NTC issued its order even as a Labor official, in a House hearing, said ABS-CBN was able to comply fully with the general labor standards, occupational health and safety standards and measures to ensure the security of tenure of its employees.
At the continuation of the congressional hearing on the renewal of the media network’s franchise to operate, Labor Undersecretary Ana Dione said her department issued an order on Jan. 28, 2020, “dropping ABS-CBN as a respondent” to the issues raised against the network during an inspection it conducted from July to September 2018.
“ABS-CBN fully complied with all the findings and violations that had been found during the inspection," Dione said.
ABS-CBN's head of transformation Mark Nepomuceno echoed Dione, saying ABS-CBN’s full compliance was the result of the company’s efforts "to act in accordance with what it believes is right under the law.”
Nepomuceno also said that ABS-CBN had been consistently honored as a good employer, with the award-giving bodies recognizing it as “Asia’s Best Employer”, “Top Ten Companies To Work For”, “Best Companies To Work For In Asia”, “Philippines Best Employer Brand” and “Most Distinguished Employer Of The Year.”
Meanwhile, Nepomuceno, former head of ABS-CBN’s corporate services group, said the ABS-CBN group had 11,071 workers with 5,918 hired by ABS-CBN Corporation.
He said based on BIR reports 1604CF and 1604E, the group paid over 20,000 workers and suppliers in 2019, the estimated number of jobs it generates yearly.
He says the ABS-CBN group is composed of 17 companies, including ABS-CBN Corporation that provides backing to its subsidiaries. The non-renewal of its broadcasting franchise will diminish its capacity to give support.
ABS-CBN president and CEO Carlo Katigbak echoed Nepomuceno, saying “the joint impact of COVID together with the cease-and-desist order is going to make it impossible for us to keep all our employees.”