From the way critics of the closure of the ABS-CBN broadcast network are talking, they are assuming that the network has a vested right to the renewal of its legislative franchise.
That view is mistaken. Nobody has a vested right to the issuance of a legislative franchise, or to the renewal of one.
Under existing laws, a broadcast media network must obtain a legislative franchise from Congress before it may operate.
The power of Congress to issue a legislative franchise is a discretionary power. That means Congress cannot be compelled by either the President or the Supreme Court to issue a legislative franchise, or to renew an expiring one.
Since the power of Congress to issue or to renew a legislative franchise is discretionary, then Congress may, for any reason, refuse to issue a franchise or renew one. That discretionary power includes not acting on any pending bills seeking the issuance or renewal of a franchise.
To repeat, nobody has a vested right to the issuance of a legislative franchise, or to the renewal of one.
The legislative franchise of ABS-CBN expired last 4 May 2020. Because the network continued to operate the next day, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered the network to stop operations one day after the expiration.
Why did ABS-CBN continue operating on 5 May when it should have signed off on 4 May? Political observers believe that ABS-CBN management was so confident that government will not dare order its closure, lest the government court the anger of its supporters, viewers, employees and creditors.
It turned out that the government had the political will to enforce the law, as seen in the cease and desist order issued by the NTC to ABS-CBN.
Admittedly, ABS-CBN is a popular broadcast network. Its drama anthologies enjoy high ratings, even if most of them are about unfaithful spouses, illegitimate offspring, unwanted pregnancies, meddling in-laws, screaming households, nosy neighbors, greedy relatives, adopted children, sibling rivalries, oppressed individuals, corrupt politicians and a sham justice system.
With the exception of some of the network’s radio newscasters who clown around while reading the news, and the praises the network repeatedly pays itself through prerecorded video materials aired at fixed intervals, the network’s coverage of the COVID-19 situation in the country has been informative. It has also helped encourage people to stay indoors during the quarantine.
ABS-CBN has hundreds of employees in its payroll. News reports reveal that the network also has several unpaid loans.
Are all those enough reasons for ABS-CBN and its supporters, viewers, employees and creditors to assume that the network has a vested right to the renewal of its legislative franchise?
As mentioned above, the answer is in the negative.
Being a popular source of information and entertainment does not create a vested right to a renewal of a franchise. It’s not as if ABS-CBN were the only broadcast media facility in town. There are other broadcast networks around which can do what ABS-CBN is capable of doing.
There is also no correlation between the non-renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise and the COVID-19 pandemic. With or without ABS-CBN around, quarantine protocols will remain in place, and the virus remains deadly and incurable. The stark reality is that people will likely contract COVID-19 because they breached quarantine protocols, and not because the ABS-CBN franchise was not renewed by Congress.
Employees of ABS-CBN joined the network’s workforce on their own free will, and with the knowledge that the network’s franchise is not permanent. They cannot now assume a vested right to the renewal of their employer’s franchise on the ground that its non-renewal will result in their unemployment.
Creditors, on the other hand, are expected to weigh the risks involved when they lend money. Just because ABS-CBN owes money to a creditor does not give that creditor a vested right to the renewal of the network’s franchise.
The ongoing scuttlebutt that Congress should be faulted for the non-renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise is obviously trash talk peddled by idiots who are quick to condemn the non-renewal of the franchise, without first understanding the Constitution and the applicable laws.