MANILA • Three out of four Philippine citizens want ABS-CBN back on the air, a survey shows.
Seventy-five per cent of Filipino adults agreed that Congress should renew ABS-CBN’s franchise, according to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) poll released last Saturday, a day after lawmakers rejected the nation’s largest TV and radio network’s bid for a permit to resume broadcasting.
Ten per cent were undecided while 13 per cent disagreed.
The broadcaster had been off the air for two months, by order of the National Telecommunications Commission, after its franchise expired on May 4, while a Bill for the renewal of its permit was pending in the House of Representatives.
The closure order last Friday sparked criticism of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who had first threatened to block ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal in April 2017.
The poll of 1,555 adults nationwide was held from July 3 to 6.
More than half or 56 per cent of respondents believe non-renewal is “a major blow to press freedom”.
Support for an ABS-CBN franchise is strong in all areas nationwide, higher in rural areas at 81 per cent, and is at 70 per cent in urban areas. It is also higher among women, at 81 per cent, compared to 70 per cent among men, SWS said.
Seventy out of 84 members of a House of Representatives committee voted to deny the franchise bid. The broadcaster can file an appeal, according to House rules, but it will be processed by the same panel.
ABS-CBN president Carlo Katigbak said in an e-mailed statement after the vote that the media company, which is often a target of Mr Duterte’s attacks over alleged bias, remains committed to public service and hopes “to find other ways to achieve our mission”.
Unless Congress can convince the public that its decision is based “on a fair review and was devoid of any political consideration, the denial of the franchise gives a chilling effect on the freedom of the press”, the Commission on Human Rights said in a statement last Saturday.