THE Senate is looking at granting ABS-CBN Corp. a provisional franchise of at least one year, which it plans to have approved on final reading by June 1, a Senate leader said on Thursday.
There are two bills pending on the media network’s franchise in the Senate: one proposing to grant it a 25-year franchise, and another providing a provisional franchise that will allow its operation to continue until June 30, 2022.
“Baka magkaroon ng compromise (There might be a compromise), definitely what we’re looking at is no less than a year provisional franchise,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said in a virtual briefing.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed on second reading a bill that gives ABS-CBN a provisional franchise, which will expire on Oct. 21, 2020.
Mr. Zubiri said the five-month period may not be enough to tackle the 25-year franchise renewal of ABS-CBN and its unit ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc., as the Congress is also occupied in crafting pandemic response measures.
He also said that the process might be affected by the October congressional break as well as the rainy season.
The Senate Committee on Public Services is set to hold a hearing on the provisional franchises on Tuesday. Mr. Zubiri said the Senate version may be sponsored on Wednesday, which may be passed on second and third reading on May 25 and June 1, respectively.
“Plano namin May 25, maipapasa na on second reading. With the three-day rule, we can take it up again on June 1 for third final reading,” he said.
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who will be the presiding chair for ABS-CBN franchise hearings, sees a speedy deliberation on the proposal, considering it has already been “exhaustively” discussed in February.
Mr. Gatchalian said he supports the continued operation of the network, seeing the role media play in the middle of the crisis brought by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“My personal view on the ABS issue is connected to the fight against COVID,” he said in a separate virtual briefing.
“Importante na lahat ng TV, radio, print, online, gumagana ngayon (It is important for all TV, radio, print, and online [entities] to be operating now), and the more we can disseminate and educate our people, the better,” Mr. Gatchalian said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan