MANILA, Philippines – ABS-CBN Corp. rejected buyout rumors as murmurs swirled that billionaires are keen on taking ownership of the beleaguered media giant after it was ordered by the Duterte administration to close its main broadcast operations last week.
“ABS-CBN is not for sale,” Kane Errol Choa, ABS-CBN head of communications, said on Monday.
Choa issued the statement in response to speculation that other parties were keen on scooping up ABS-CBN, which is controlled by privately-held Lopez Inc.
Prominent names included the Ayala Group, which owns telco giant Globe Telecom, and Udenna Corp., controlled by Dennis A. Uy, a Davao-based businessman and campaign donor of President Duterte.
Uy, whose group recently established a media and entertainment arm, denied any intention to buy ABS-CBN and said “the business of broadcasting is not part of our corporate direction.”
An Ayala spokesperson said on Monday “there is no truth to that rumor.”
ABS-CBN is instead challenging the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) cease and desist order before the Supreme Court.
ABS-CBN has continued its online presence since this is not covered by the NTC’s order. However, traditional media platforms such as television and radio are crucial because they deliver the majority of its revenues and nearly all of its profits.
ABS-CBN said in its filing before the SC that it was losing up to P35 million per day—equivalent to about P1 billion per month—because of the shutdown. Without earnings, the company will eventually go bankrupt, threatening its 11,000 employees, analysts have warned.
In issuing its cease and desist order on May 5, the NTC argued that ABS-CBN can no longer continue broadcasts using its assigned radio frequencies since its Congressional franchise expired the previous day.
The NTC also told ABS-CBN to explain within 10 days why its frequencies should not be recalled by the government.
It is those frequencies that other players are reportedly keen on winning.
Pierre Galla, co-founder at advocacy group Democracy.Net.PH, said the use of those frequencies will depend on the NTC should government succeed in recalling the spectrum.
He said the typical options include a so-called beauty contest, where the NTC decides which company is the most capable of utilizing the assets, or a spectrum auction, where the highest bidder wins the frequencies.
Galla said another option is to stop or delay the recall of frequencies through a legal challenge, keeping them tied up in the courts.
While frequencies and a Congressional franchise are important requirements of the broadcast business, one of ABS-CBN’s most important assets is its content, which includes a vast library of TV shows and movies.
Just before the shutdown, company CEO Carlo Katigbak made sure to remind loyal viewers of this fact when he mentioned The Probinsyano—one of its longest-running hit shows.
“Frequencies are valuable if you are going to operate the network but in this business content is king,” said Dennis Anthony Uy, a businessman from Pampanga and owner broadband company Converge ICT Solutions Inc. He told the Inquirer he also has no plans of venturing into the broadcast business.
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