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The rise and fall of a giant network: A roller coaster ride

ABS-CBN started its tumultuous though productive life when American engineer James Lindenberg, the ‘father of Philippine television’ formed the Bolinao Electronics Corp., a business entity that engaged in radio equipment manufacture and broadcasting soon after the Second World War.

READ: House committee junks ABS-CBN's franchise renewal in 70-11 vote

Bolinao soon went into radio broadcasting as radio station DZBC with Lindenberg at the helm.

By 1951, Lindenberg partnered with Antonio Quirino, brother of then President Elpidio Quirino on a television broadcasting venture and renamed Bolinao as Alto Broadcasting System and, despite lack of much resources, were able to put up a television tower and start broadcasting as DZAQ-TV.

To sustain the operations of ABS, the company had to import the first 300 television sets to be used commercially in the Philippines.

Its first broadcast was that of a social event in Quirino’s home.

READ: ABS-CBN loses franchise bid

Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN), on the other hand, was started by Eugenio Lopez Sr., brother of the sitting Philippine vice president at the time, Fernando Lopez.

In 1957, Eugenio acquired ABS from Quirino and Lindenberg but it it was only in 1967 that the corporate name was changed to ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation

By the late 1960s it operated radio stations DZXL and DZAQ, and television Channels 2 and 9. Channel 9 was later transferred to Channel 4.

By 1970, the network owned and operated two national television networks and 12 regional television stations, six national radio and 15 regional radio stations nationwide.

However, on September 22,1972, the ABS-CBN stations were shut down as martial law was declared.

Geny Lopez, the president of the company, was detained for five years until he and his cellmate Sergio Osmeña III escaped from Fort Bonifacio in 1977 and sought asylum in the United States.

The network’s facilities were lent by the martial law government to Roberto Benedicto, whose radio and television facilities on Roxas Boulevard were destroyed in a fire.

READ: Palace denies hand in lawmakers’ ruling

When Benedicto’s broadcast stations transferred to a new headquarters on Tandang Sora Avenue, Quezon City, the former ABS-CBN facilities were transferred to the government television that used Channel 4.

When the People Power Revolt broke out in February 1986, Constabulary Highway Patrol Group and Special Action Force troopers took control of the facilities on the third day of the revolt and interrupted the last press conference of then President Marcos that was being broadcast live by Channel 4.

Right after the revolution, Geny Lopez returned to the country after self-exile in the United States and started rebuilding from what was left of the station.

From there it was all uphill for the Lopez station until it became the top network feared by businessmen and politicians, including presidents.

In 1995, during the Ramos administration, the station was able to secure a legislative franchise for 25 years. That franchise expired on May 4, this year.

READ: ABS franchise backers appeal for calm

Topics: James Lindenberg , ABS-CBN , Bolinao Electronics Corp , People Power Revolt , Alto Broadcasting System , Chronicle Broadcasting Network , Geny Lopez ,
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