Philippines: ABS-CBN ends regional coverage

Philippines largest TV network ABS-CBN, which was forced off air after Congress rejected its franchise renewal, closed regional stations on August 28 after more than 30 years in operations. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) to express dismay over for the closure, which leaves millions of Filipinos in regional areas without a major source of credible news and will see thousands of media workers lose their jobs.

Employees and supporters of local television network ABS-CBN hold placards as they protest in front of the House of Representatives in Manila on July 10, 2020. Credit: Miggy Hilario/AFP

ABS-CBN Regional had 21 regional stations across the country. The company has decided to close its regional stations except for the regional offices in Baguio, Cebu, and Cagayan de Oro. The regional network has been played an essential role in serving Filipinos in remote areas not serviced by other television signals.

Citizens relied on the TV Patrol program, the flagship prime-time newscast of ABS-CBN, aired for more than three decades, as their primary news source. It broadcasts local and national news in different dialects. Regional ABS-CBN news teams have also been instrumental in front line reporting of natural disasters, community support and aid distribution. The network aired the final newscasts of 12 local TV Patrol programs on Friday, August 28 via Facebook and YouTube.

ABS-CBN Regional will also cease production of its nine morning shows. In addition to that, the closing of regional offices will also affect all public service initiatives, ranging from health, education, environment, and livelihood. Following its decision to close regional offices, more and more media workers will lose their jobs.

The network stayed off-air after the lawmakers denied its franchise renewal on July 10. ABS-CBN decided to focus on the digital and cable business. The rejection of the network’s franchise application has attracted the regional outcry as the franchise is central to ensuring people have access to information. The public campaign PIRMA Kapamilya has been launched to bring ABS-CBN back on air.

NUJP said:It is clear that democracy is under siege, by the government no less, as seen in the relentless assaults on the critical and independent media, and the continuing attacks on the people's basic rights and freedoms.”

The IFJ said: “Access to information is a fundamental human right. It is clear that people, especially those who live in remote areas, have lost their main source of information in these troubled times during the coronavirus outbreak. IFJ calls the authorities to ensure unfettered access to information and to stop the silencing of media.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia - Pacific on ifj@ifj-asia.org

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries

Twitter: @ifjasiapacific, on Facebook: IFJAsiaPacific and Instagram