Asia Minute: Government Pulls Plug on Philippines’ Largest Broadcaster

May 7, 2020

Some lawmakers in the Philippines are pushing to get the country’s largest broadcaster back on the air. The station’s signal was taken down following a long-running dispute with the government, and in the middle of a continuing pandemic.

For the first time since Ferdinand Marcos was in power, the biggest broadcaster in the Philippines has gone silent. The government pulled the plug on ABS-CBN on Tuesday after its license expired. The group includes 38 television stations, 21 radio stations and an online news service.

Under Philippines law, it’s up to Congress to grant and renew broadcast licenses, and the lower house is dominated by allies of President Rodrigo Duterte — a long time critic of the network.

ABS-CBN has been among many media outlets that Duterte has criticized for coverage of tactics used in his war on drugs. Human Rights Watch says the number of deaths related to that campaign is “difficult to ascertain,” but its estimates are in the tens of thousands.

Duterte also accused the network of refusing to run some of his political ads when he ran for office in 2016.

Media outlets have been targeted by the Duterte Administration with lawsuits, harassment and other tactics.

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines said the move “threatens press freedom at a time when the public needs an unfettered press the most,” adding “As the Philippines reels from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, ABS-CBN’s critical eye is needed now more than ever to help inform the public.”