THE Senate has approved on second reading the bill extending the franchise of Rajah Broadcasting Network, Inc. (RBN), owned by presidential adviser Ramon “RJ” P. Jacinto, for another 25 years.

The chamber approved on Wednesday House Bill No. 8177, whose enactment will renew RBN’s franchise a second time. It was first granted in 1965, under Republic Act No. 4505, and later renewed in 1995 through RA 8104. The franchise was set to expire in July 2020.

RBN’s flagship radio station is RJ100.3 FM, which operates ten stations in key cities nationwide. The RBN also broadcasts through its AM radio station, DZRJ 810 AM Radyo Bandido.

Aside from RBN, Mr. Jacinto, currently serves as the presidential adviser for economic affairs and information technology communications, also owns other companies under the RJ Group.

If enacted, the measure will allow RBN to “construct, install, establish, operate and maintain” radio or television broadcasting stations. This, however, may b revoked upon failure of RBN to operate continuously for two years.

Moreover, it shall require the RBN to offer at least 30% of its outstanding capital stock to Filipinos, in compliance with the constitutional provision, promoting public participation in public utilities.

It shall also allot a maximum of 10% of paid commercial time to public service time, as needed by the government.

RBN shall also be prohibited from the “sale, lease, transfer, grant of usufruct, or assignment of franchise,” without the approval of Congress.

The network is also required to submit an annual report to Congress on or before April 30 of every year. Non-compliance will subject RBN to a fine of P500 per working day. — C.A.Tadalan