Telco commission shuts down ABS-CBN digital services Sky Direct, TV Plus

Pinch us, but we’re sensing a pattern here.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) yesterday issued separate cease-and-desist orders against Sky Cable Corporation’s Sky Direct and TV Plus’ Channel 43, two digital services where ABS-CBN is still allowed to air its shows, forcing them last night to go off the air.

The state regulator said that the legislative franchise of Sky Cable Corporation, an ABS-CBN subsidiary, has also expired on May 5, on the same day that the embattled media giant was issued a similar cease and desist order.

“Upon the expiration of R.A. No. 7969, Sky Cable Corporation no longer has a valid and subsisting congressional franchise to install, operate, or maintain a Direct Broadcast Satellite Service,” the order read.

R.A. 7969 is a republic act which grants cable television systems franchise to maintain and operate their systems in the country.

Sky’s direct broadcast satellite service Sky Direct, a subscription service that airs programs like the ABS-CBN News Channel, ABS-CBN Sports Action HD, and Cinema One, is different from Sky Cable and Sky Internet, and said cable and internet subscribers will not be affected by the shutdown.

NTC also ordered Sky to refund unconsumed prepaid loads and the advanced payments of its 1.3 million subscribers, and to explain within 10 days why the said service should still be allowed to operate.

The commission also ordered ABS-CBN to stop airing digital television transmission through TV Plus via Channel 43 in Metro Manila, arguing that it was included in the list of radio and TV stations that they ordered shut in May. The channel used to air the network’s flagship radio news program DZMM Teleradyo.

TV Plus, owned by an ABS-CBN subsidiary, is what’s known as  a digital terrestrial TV provider. To watch programs aired on the digital platform, users must buy a TV plus box and activate it through an ABS-CBN mobile sim.

Read: House asks NTC to explain why it shouldn’t be cited for contempt over ABS-CBN shutdown

A day before the platforms were ordered off air, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, who signed the cease-and-desist orders, told lawmakers in a House hearing that they sought Solicitor General Jose Calida’s opinion on the franchise be “more prudent.”

The commissioner said Calida had avised the NTC to close down TV Plus’ Channel 43, saying that its franchise is dependent on ABS-CBN, whose permit had already lapsed.

Back in May, NTC told the media giant to stop broadcasting after Calida threatened to file graft charges against them if they issue ABS-CBN a temporary franchise after its 25-year permit neared expiration.

The media giant was granted a temporary license to operate by the House of Representatives on May 13, which would have allowed them to resume broadcast in June if it were approved by President Rodrigo Duterte. But several days later, the House moved to drop the provisional license, saying it would instead resume the hearings to grant the embattled network a new, 25-year franchise.

During its hearings, lawmakers asked the NTC why it shouldn’t be cited for contempt over the network’s shutdown, saying that NTC officials interfered with the House of Representatives in issuing the stop broadcast order.

Calida is known to share a four-decade friendship with Duterte. The solicitor general’s security firm has also signed multi-million peso contracts with at least three government agencies including the National Parks Development Committee, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, and the National Economic and Development Authority, months after Calida was appointed by Duterte as the government’s chief lawyer in 2016.

It’s no secret that Duterte hasn’t exactly been a fan of ABS-CBN, which he has accused of broadcasting stories that covered him in a negative light.

This article, Telco commission shuts down ABS-CBN digital services Sky Direct, TV Plus, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!