Philippine media conglomerate ABS-CBN has shut down its flagship free-to-air channel and sports channel, as well as its radio operations, on Tuesday night.
The network’s free-to-air broadcasts went off-the-air after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the Philippine government’s telecommunications regulatory body, has ordered to cease its broadcast due to the expiration of their congressional franchise on Monday, May 4.
The network has complied with the shut down after receiving the cease-and-desist order, and its nationwide television and radio operations under ABS-CBN Corporation has gone dark at 07:52pm PHT.
The network operates 42 analogue television stations, including flagship DWWX-TV Channel 2 Metro Manila, 10 digital terrestrial television (DTT) stations, five AM radio stations and 18 FM radio stations nationwide.
Their DTT broadcasts under a blocktime agreement with AMCARA Broadcasting Corporation, including UHF 43 in Metro Manila, remained on-air except for the blacked-out broadcast of ABS-CBN, ABS-CBN Sports+Action and DZMM Teleradyo. DTT channels CineMo, YeY and Kapamilya Box Office (KBO) remains operational.
“We trust that the government will decide on our franchise with the best interest of the Filipino people in mind, recognizing ABS-CBN’s role and efforts in providing the latest news and information during these challenging times,” the network said in a statement.
The network also adds, “ABS-CBN remains committed to being in the service of the Filipino, and we will find ways to continue providing meaningful service to them.”
The NTC, in its cease-and-desist order, explains that Republic Act (R.A.) 7966, which grants the network a 25-year franchise to operate television and radio stations, has expired on Monday.
The regulator adds that according to R.A. 3846, also known as the “Radio Control Law”, says “no person, firm, company, association, or corporation shall construct, install, establish, or operate a radio transmitting station, or a radio receiving station used for commercial purposes, or a radio broadcasting station, without having first obtained a franchise therefor from the Congress of the Philippines.”
“Upon the expiration of R.A. 7966, ABS-CBN no longer has a valid and subsisting congressional franchise as required by Act No. 3846,” the regulator said in a statement.
The network’s cable TV operations, including ABS-CBN News Channel and Cinema One, and its production outfits will also not be affected by the order as their operations are not directly linked to the expired franchise.
ABS-CBN is a multimedia conglomerate and a publicly-traded company, owned by Lopez Holdings Corporation, which also owns companies in electricity, real estate, infrastructure and several others.
The broadcasting operations started in 1946 as Bolinao Electronics Corporation, which was established by James Lindenberg, and launched the country’s first television station in 1953, just three months after the launch of Japanese television stations NHK and Nippon TV.
The company launched its subsidiary Creative Programs, Inc. (CPI) in 1995 to serve as its Pay TV distribution arm in the provinces, as well as the direct provider of pay-per-view content. The subsidiary had launched two channels that aired Japanese content, which are the Tagalog-language anime channel HEROtv in 2005 and Tagalog-dubbed foreign movie channel TAG in 2016, but both channels had ceased broadcast in 2018.
The company launched their DTT service in 2011, known simply as “Ang Mahiwagang Black Box” (The Magical Black Box) which offered an initial of five exclusive channels to the service in addition to their flagship free-to-air channels, including the kids channel YeY.
The service was eventually launched as ABS-CBN TVplus to the commercial market in 2015.
After the NTC assigned permanent single-frequency networks to VHF broadcasters in 2018, the service launched additional channels, including the Tagalog-dubbed Asian entertainment channel Asianovela Channel.
As of February 2020, the DTT service has announced that they have sold about 9 million units of their set-top box device.
ABS-CBN’s flagship channel has aired several anime titles throughout the years, including Zenki, BT’x, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Digimon Adventure, Sailor Moon, Rave: Groove Adventure, InuYasha, Cardcaptor Sakura, The Law of Ueki, Katekyo Hitman Reborn, Haikyuu!!, Kuroko’s Basketball, My Hero Academia and the highly-rated Naruto series, among others.