Manny Villar's AMBS acquires ABS-CBN's former frequencies

·3 min read
This photo taken on May 16, 2016 shows Philippines' president-elect Rodrigo Duterte (R) introducing property magnate and former senator Manny Villar (L) during a press conference in Davao City, in the southern island of Mindanao. 
Business titans, turncoat politicians, celebrities and rebel leaders are descending on the long-neglected far southern Philippines, hoping to gain favour with the nation's shock new powerbroker. The remote and dusty city of Davao has suddenly become the country's new seat of power after hometown hero Rodrigo Duterte won last week's presidential election in a landslide.
FILE PHOTO: Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte (R) introducing property magnate and former senator Manny Villar (L) during a press conference in Davao City, in the southern island of Mindanao on May 16, 2016. (Photo: TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) announced that they have granted the Manny Villar-owned Advanced Media Broadcasting System, Inc. (AMBS) provisional authority (PA) to operate using Channel 16 on Tuesday (Jan 25).

The AMBS was similarly granted the simulcast channel number 2 until 2023, which, according to the statement by the NTC, is “the paired analog channel in Mega Manila of digital channel 16.” ABS-CBN, who previously operated the same digital TV frequencies, was issued a cease and desist order by the NTC in May 5, 2020.

Villar’s firm, Planet Cable Inc., had owned AMBS since the Congress approved their bid in 2021, although AMBS itself had already been awarded a 25-year franchise to operate TV service two years prior. The NTC also adds that AMBS “was the first applicant for an authority to install, operate, and maintain a digital TV in Metro Manila” in 2006, and that they are legally, technically, and financially qualified.

President Rodrigo Duterte's spiritual adviser Pastor Apollo Quiboloy similarly acquired the broadcast frequency of Channel 43, which was previously used by ABS-CBN for its TVPlus channels, a day after the NTC's decision.

Kapamilya ng Manggagawang Pilipino Representative Jerry B. Gracio relates the recently granted PA to the Villar family’s involvement in ABS-CBN’s rejection for a franchise renewal.

Source: Jerry B. Grácio/Facebook
Source: Jerry B. Grácio/Facebook

Bumoto si Camille Villar laban sa pagbibigay ng prangkisa sa ABS-CBN. Tapos, ngayon, nasa mga Villar na ang ABS-CBN frequencies,” Gracio said.

(Camille Villar voted against giving the franchise to ABS-CBN. Now, ABS-CBN's frequencies are in the Villars.)

Camille is Manny Villar’s only daughter and currently one of the Deputy Speakers in the House of Representatives. Similarly, Villar’s daughter-in-law, Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, is a justice undersecretary at the Department of Justice (DOJ), while her husband, Mark Villar, was part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet.

The NTC also said that they sought legal opinion from the DOJ, policy guidance from the Department of Information and Communications Technology, and the concurrence of the Office of the Executive Secretary.

Amid speculations that Villar’s rise as a media tycoon is somewhat politically motivated, a quote allegedly pulled from a 2020 Facebook post by veteran journalist Jose “Jing” Magsaysay began to resurface online: “You can get the franchise but you will never be ABS-CBN.”

Given the Villar family’s political prominence, netizens fear the potential implication that ABS-CBN could be shut off of future attempts to regain their former frequencies if AMBS is granted a longer assignment for Channel 2. Thus, ABS-CBN supporters continue to promote the sentiment that having the same frequency as the disenfranchised network will not automatically attract the same audience.

Antonio Gabriel D. Tongco is a writer and communication major who also likes to explore other facets of writing such as research and SEO. The views expressed are his own.

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