The ABS-CBN franchise renewal controversy is a national dispute in the Philippines regarding the renewal of the congressional franchise that would have allowed Philippine media network ABS-CBN continued broadcasting rights in the Philippines.
Disputes between the government of President Rodrigo Duterte and ABS-CBN arose on the terms and conditions of the franchise renewal agreement. Amid the controversy, the Congress of the Philippines, the legislature of the country, was unable to renew the franchise before its expiration date. The congressional franchise expired on May 4, 2020, as the Philippines was dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon. The next day, exercising constitutional powers, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) then issued a cease-and-desist order demanding ABS-CBN to immediately cease all of its free TV and radio broadcasting. ABS-CBN complied with the government order and signed-off all of its radio stations and free television channels later that day. On June 30, 2020, the NTC and Solicitor General Jose Calida released two alias cease-and-desist orders against ABS-CBN TV Plus and Sky Direct.
Beginning in 2014, the network had repeatedly applied for the renewal of their broadcast franchise through private bills that had been pending in the House of Representatives but had not been addressed by the 16th, 17th, and 18th congresses of the Philippines. Prominent figures in ABS-CBN Corporation, the political opposition in the Philippines, media advocacy groups, and the international press have labeled the refusal of Congress to renew the franchise as a result of President Duterte's pressure for ABS-CBN to cease broadcasting, and a direct attack on the country's democracy and press freedoms. Duterte's ruling coalition maintains a supermajority in both chambers of Congress, and the President has criticized the ABS-CBN Network for their alleged biased and unfavorable news coverage against Duterte beginning with his presidential campaign in the 2016 Philippine presidential election, repeatedly voicing his opposition against the renewal of the network's congressional franchise. ABS-CBN has subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court of the Philippines to nullify as unconstitutional the cease-and-desist order.
The resulting franchise expiration and withdrawal of its broadcast rights marked the first time ABS-CBN, considered a historical and cultural icon in the Philippines, had been off the air since the 1986 revolution, having been seized and liquidated by the authoritarian government of the Martial Law dictatorship from 1972 until the regime's collapse in 1986. Critics of the Duterte government consider the NTC's cease-and-desist order and the denial of the franchise application as contributing to a growing democratic backsliding in the Philippines under the Duterte administration.
- 1 Background
- 2 History
- 2.1 Early renewal initiatives during the 16th Congress
- 2.2 Ad controversies during the 2016 Philippine presidential campaign
- 2.3 Renewal initiatives during the 17th and 18th Congress
- 2.4 Quo warranto petition
- 2.5 Planned provisional authority cancellation
- 2.6 May 2020 broadcast stoppage
- 2.7 Post-shutdown developments
- 2.7.1 Network programming and legal action
- 2.7.2 Congressional hearings for a new franchise
- 2.7.3 House of Representatives votes on the franchise renewal
- 2.7.4 Supreme Court case
- 2.7.5 Recall of frequencies and channels
- 2.7.6 Blocktime deals and partnership agreements
- 2.7.7 2021 franchise approval initiatives
- 3 Reactions, impacts, effects, and aftermath
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Background[edit | edit source]
Congressional franchise to operate television and radio stations[edit | edit source]
As prescribed by the American Insular government-era Act No. 3846, or the Radio Control Act, which became effective in 1931 (later amended in 1963), broadcasting networks require a congressional franchise to operate television and radio stations, which usually last for up to 25 years. ABS-CBN, which had been operating since June 13, 1946, made its first television broadcast on October 23, 1953, had last been granted a 25-year franchise extension on March 30, 1995 by virtue of Republic Act No. 7966 (but later implemented on May 4, 1995). This expired on May 4, 2020, as upheld by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Press freedom and democracy issues[edit | edit source]
The Philippines is touted to have the "freest and liveliest press" in Asia, where media is considered a watchdog and a "fourth estate" helping to maintain the checks and balances of democratic governance.
Despite this, the country is consistently ranked as one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists. In May 2020, it slipped two spots down to 136th place (out of 180 countries) in the World Press Freedom Index.
Media watchdogs such as Reporters Without Borders, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Amnesty International, the Photojournalists' Center of the Philippines (PCP), Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), and the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation (D&D) have noted that various forms of attacks against the press have increased since the Duterte administration came to power in 2016 – with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, news website Rappler, nonprofit media organizations like Vera Files and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and ABS-CBN being particular targets because of coverage critical of the administration.
Many of these media watchdogs have issued statements placing the ABS-CBN broadcast stoppage in the context of systemic attacks against press freedom in the Philippines. The shutdown order was denounced by media groups and people's organizations for being a loss of democracy, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press. Some groups also placed the matter in the context of attacks and harassment aimed at those that criticize the government.
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The ABS-CBN broadcast network is acknowledged to be one of the Philippines' oldest and most influential media networks, run by the Lopez family. The company generates about 50 to 60 percent of the group's total annual revenue mainly from selling airtime of its television and radio properties to advertisers. The remaining revenue is generated from consumer sales through distribution of cable and international channels, as well as operations of over-the-top platform services, and a family entertainment center in Taguig. According to the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), ABS-CBN Corporation controlled "somewhere between 31% and 44%" of the Philippines' total television market as of 2020.
Prior broadcast stoppage under Ferdinand Marcos[edit | edit source]
Prior to the 2020 stoppage, ABS-CBN had been closed down on September 23, 1972, when martial law under Ferdinand Marcos was announced and the station's television and radio stations were sequestered. This stoppage lasted until July 1986, when the sequestered stations were recovered and the frequencies returned to ABS-CBN.
During that 14-year period, use of the corporation's frequencies (except DZXL-AM 620, awarded to KBS/RPN as DWWW, DZMY-AM 1160, awarded to BBC as DWWA, and DZXL-TV 4, awarded to the government-owned National Media Production Center for the launch of Government Television as DWGT-TV in 1974) was awarded to the Banahaw Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) owned by Marcos crony and sugar plantation owner Roberto Benedicto and was launched on November 4, 1973. Under martial law, BBC formed a de facto media monopoly with Kanlaon Broadcasting System/Radio Philippines Network (KBS/RPN), Intercontinental Broadcasting Corporation (IBC, acquired in 1975), and government-owned Government Television/Maharlika Broadcasting System (GTV/MBS). The company's headquarters, the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Center, was also sequestered without compensation from the network's owners and was renamed as Broadcast Plaza to serve as headquarters of BBC, KBS/RPN, GTV/MBS and, from 1980, the Bureau of Broadcasts (BB). Moreover, copies of the old pre-Martial Law ABS-CBN shows had also been lost due to the raid by Marcos troops.
Marcos was eventually deposed by the People Power Revolution of February 1986. The newely-created revolutionary government agency Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) sequestered and later dissolved BBC, and returned the frequencies to ABS-CBN in July 1986, eventually resuming broadcast on September 16, 1986.
History[edit | edit source]
|March 30, 1995||RA 7966 grants ABS-CBN franchise until 2020|
|September 11, 2014||HB 4997 filed by Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao. Lapses at committee level.|
|May 5, 2016||Airing of negative political ad by Antonio Trillanes criticizing then-presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte's foul language|
|May 6, 2016||Duterte running mate Alan Peter Cayetano files temporary restraining order in Taguig City Regional Trial Court against ABS-CBN Corporation and its executives to prevent the airing of anti-Duterte political ad|
|November 10, 2016||HB 4349 filed by Rep. Micaela Violago|
|April-May 2017||Duterte accuses ABS-CBN of "swindling", "estafa" over his unaired political ads|
|August 30, 2018||HB 8163 filed by Karlo Nograles and Jericho Nograles|
|November 8, 2018||Duterte says he will object to ABS-CBN franchise renewal|
|July 1, 2019||HB 4349 lapses. Refiled in the 18th congress as HB 676 and signed by 20 more co-authors.|
|July 29, 2019||HB 3064 filed by Rep. Jericho Nograles|
|August 6, 2019||HB 3521 filed by Rep. Rose Marie Arenas|
|August 8, 2019||HB 3713 filed by Rep. Joy Myra Tambunting|
|August 14, 2019||HB 3947 filed by Laguna Rep. and former ABS-CBN reporter Sol Aragones|
|August 28, 2019||Sen. Ralph Recto files SB 981|
|September 2, 2019||HB 4305 filed by Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto|
|October 29, 2019||Cayetano says Congress will deliberate.|
|November 25, 2019||HB 5608 filed by Rep. Aurelio Gonzales, Rep. Johnny Pimentel, Rep. Salvador Leachon|
|December 3, 2019||Duterte says he is "still angry", "will see to it that you [ABS-CBN] are out".|
|December 4, 2019||Cayetano says Congress will no longer tackle franchise renewal in 2019.
HB 5705 filed by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.
|December 9, 2019||HB 5753 filed by Rep. Josephine Ramirez-Sato|
|December 30, 2019||Duterte says ABS-CBN should instead just sell their network|
|January 6, 2020||Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman files HR 639 urging plenary action on the 8 pending house bills.|
|January 27, 2020||HB 6052 filed by Makabayan bloc|
|January 30, 2020||HB 6138 filed by Baguio City Rep. Mark Go|
|February 10, 2020||Calida files quo warranto petition to the Supreme Court against ABS-CBN Corporation and ABS-CBN Convergence for its "highly abusive practices".|
|February 13, 2020||HB 6293 filed by Rep. Loren Legarda|
|February 14, 2020||Cayetano says franchise bills "not that urgent".|
|February 17, 2020||Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon files Joint Resolution No. 11 to extend ABS-CBN franchise until 2022|
|February 18, 2020||Calida asks the Supreme Court to issue gag order against ABS-CBN.|
|February 24, 2020||Senate Committee on Public Services holds hearing. ABS-CBN CEO and president Carlo Katigbak clarifies unaired political ads. Apologizes for the negative ads, says not intended to offend the President.
BIR, SEC clear ABS-CBN of violation allegations.
DOJ Sec Guevarra says that NTC can grant provisional authority.
|February 26, 2020||Duterte accepts Katigbak's apology. Tells ABS-CBN to donate the P2.9M political ad refund to charity. House Committee on Legislative Franchises asked NTC to issue provisional authority.
CDO Rep Rufus Rodriguez filed House Joint Resolution 29 seeking to extend franchise until May 2021.
|March 4, 2020||Senate passes SRN-344 authorizing NTC to issue provisional authority|
|March 5, 2020||Gadon files writ of prohibition against Cayetano, Cordoba and Alvarez, in order to stop NTC from granting ABS-CBN its provisional authority
Sen. Bong Revilla files SB 1403
|March 11, 2020||NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba says it will allow ABS-CBN to continue operations pending franchise renewal.
Congress goes on recess. Bills for franchise renewal not passed.
WHO officially declares COVID-19 a pandemic.
|May 1, 2020||Cayetano says House has "no intention" to order network closure.|
|May 3, 2020||World Press Freedom Day
Calida tells NTC officials they may face graft charges if they grant ABS-CBN provisional authority
|May 4, 2020||ABS-CBN franchise expires. Malacañang says it will not interfere; will let NTC decide.|
|May 5, 2020||Cease-and-desist order from the NTC and Calida.
ABS-CBN goes off air.
|May 7, 2020||ABS-CBN requests a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court so it may continue operating.|
|May 19, 2020||The Supreme Court accepts the case.|
|June 30, 2020||Two alias cease-and-desist orders from NTC and Calida.
All the exclusive digital channels of ABS-CBN TV Plus ceased broadcasting.
SKYdirect ceased operations.
|July 10, 2020||The House Committee on Legislative Franchises votes 70-11 to deny the 25-year franchise application of ABS-CBN, citing several issues.|
|July 11, 2020||Calida says "the end has come. Justice has been served."|
|August 25, 2020||The Supreme Court junks ABS-CBN's TRO petition against the NTC's closure order.|
|September 10, 2020||The NTC recalls all channels and frequencies assigned to ABS-CBN.|
|September 18, 2020||The European Parliament urges the Philippine government to grant ABS-CBN a broadcast license.|
|January 4, 2021||Senate Pres. Tito Sotto files SB 1967.|
|January 18, 2021||HB 8298 filed by Batangas 6th District Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto.
HB 8322 filed by Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman.
Early renewal initiatives during the 16th Congress[edit | edit source]
In 2014 and 2015, ABS-CBN requested the 16th Congress to tackle the extension of its franchise early, despite the fact that its renewal was not due until six years later, in 2020.
Media sources in the legislature indicated that the network's 2016 initiative was the result of having been "particularly singled out" by supporters of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte because of the perception that they "consistently showed him in a negative light". The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that a member of the House legislative franchise committee said ABS-CBN "did not want to risk going through the renewal under an 'unfriendly' administration".
The Inquirer's source also said that the initiative "lacked support from President Benigno Aquino III's allies in the House" because they felt that ABS-CBN's criticisms against Aquino were "too personal and offensive and went to the point of nitpicking".
ABS-CBN eventually had to withdraw these franchise renewal initiatives due to time constraints.
Ad controversies during the 2016 Philippine presidential campaign[edit | edit source]
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has attributed his objection to the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN to an election ad controversy during the campaign leading up to the 2016 Philippine presidential election. He said the network refused to air his 2016 presidential campaign ads and favored the negative political ads paid by then-vice presidential candidate Antonio Trillanes critical of his remarks on the campaign trail.
On February 24, 2020, the network's president and chief executive officer Carlo Katigbak has apologized to President Duterte for not airing his political advertisements during his 2016 polls. President Duterte has accepted the apology, leaving the franchise's renewal to the Congress. ABS-CBN also offered to return the money spent for these advertisements, which Duterte declined, stating that the money should be donated to a charity instead.
Meanwhile, Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez defended the controversial ad as being well within Election Law, under "Partisan Political Activity".
Renewal initiatives during the 17th and 18th Congress[edit | edit source]
Non-renewal assertions by Duterte[edit | edit source]
Throughout his term, which coincides with the 17th and 18th Congress, President Duterte publicly reiterated that he will oppose the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.
Opposition lawmakers as well as labor groups objected to Duterte's stand on ABS-CBN as the franchise non-renewal will compromise the employees of the network; stating that the blocking of the franchise renewal had no merit. Opposition groups have stated their opinions that the non-renewal of the franchise violates press freedom.
The President later changed his stance after the network's apology, stating that he will not interfere with the franchise renewal in the Congress. However, the President did not say whether he will veto the bill or not.
17th Congress[edit | edit source]
In November 2016, Nueva Ecija Representative Micaela Violago filed House Bill 4349 in the 17th Congress to renew the network's franchise. The 17th Congress adjourned sine die with the bill never getting out of committee.
Deliberations during the 18th Congress[edit | edit source]
During the 18th Congress of the Philippines, at least 12 house representatives and 2 senators filed their own versions for a new franchise of the network. House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano made assurances that the Congress will tackle the franchise with fairness. Click here to learn more.
On January 6, 2020, Albay representative Edcel Lagman filed House Resolution 639, urging the House Committee on Legislative Franchises for its immediate action on the several bills lodged to the committee. At least 91 other representatives signed the resolution.
On February 24, 2020, the Congress finally made its decision to tackle their franchise renewal. During a Senate hearing on the same day, public services panel chair Grace Poe stated they were to tackle ABS-CBN's compliance with the terms and conditions of its franchise. The conclusion was that there was no breach of laws or franchise terms. The following is a summary of the findings:
- The Bureau of Internal Revenue stated that ABS-CBN had fully complied with the tax requirements of the government. Sir Cabantac Jr., BIR Large Taxpayers Service head stated that the company had paid P14.298 billion from 2016 to 2019. In 2019, ABS-CBN also settled P152.44 million in tax payments with the BIR.
- The Department of Labor and Employment cleared the media giant for its compliance with general labor standards, occupational safety and health, and security of tenure. Former ABS-CBN corporate services head Mark Nepomuceno said they also have contributed to mandatory employee benefits such as Social Security System, PhilHealth, and Pag-IBIG Fund. He also stated that ABS-CBN was no longer practicing end-of-contract scheme, as well as giving benefits to independent contributors varying per contract negotiation.
- Telecommunications Commissioner General Gamaliel Cordoba stated that franchise laws cover "commercial purposes", including pay-per-view service. Section 1 of Republic Act 7908, which allows ABS-CBN Covergence's broadcast operations, states that: "It is hereby granted a franchise to construct, operate, and maintain, for commercial purposes." Even though ABS-CBN introduced the service without NTC guidelines yet, the fine for such violation is a measly P200. Senate President Recto stated that the NTC can just impose a fine on ABS-CBN rather than shutdown.
- Securities and Exchange Commission Commissioner Ephyro Amatong clarified that a legal interpretation from 1999 stated that Philippine Depository Receipts were not equivalent to certificates of ownership, which may have evolved in recent years. Senator Poe pointed out that companies should be notified of any changes in the legal interpretation of the investment instrument, as all media companies have to be 100% Filipino-owned. Issuing PDRs is a common practice among Philippine media outfits—including Rappler and GMA. The SEC has not yet conducted a review whether there are violations in ABS-CBN's PDRs, with Amatong saying he "would rather not make a categorical statement at this time" as to whether there are violations in ABS-CBN's PDRs, given the pending case at the Supreme Court, as of May 6, 2020.
Quo warranto petition[edit | edit source]
On February 10, 2020, Solicitor General of the Philippines Jose Calida filed a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court of the Philippines seeking to revoke ABS-CBN's franchise and that of its subsidiary ABS-CBN Convergence over alleged breaches of its franchise, including operating its pay-per-view service Kapamilya Box Office (KBO), constitutional restriction on foreign ownership of mass media, and resorted to an ingenious corporate layering scheme, in order to transfer its subsidiary's franchise without Congressional approval. The network responded to disprove the allegations leveled against it.
Within the same month, various congressmen urged the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to grant a provisional authority to ABS-CBN to continue operations after the lapse of its current franchise until Congress has made a decision on its franchise application. Having consulted with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the NTC affirmed in March 2020 that it would "likely" issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN and "let ABS-CBN continue operations based on equity". However, the Federation of International Cable TV and Telecommunications Associations of the Philippines (FICTAP) questioned the provisional authority, stating that it would be unconstitutional.
On June 23, 2020, the Supreme Court of the Philippines dismissed the quo warranto petition to revoke ABS-CBN Corporation's franchise, stating that the petition was moot and academic as the franchise already expired, therefore the Court would not be changing anything by voiding the franchise ab initio. However, the quo warranto petition filed against ABS-CBN Convergence Inc. for allegedly illegally operating KBO remains pending.
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On March 5, 2020, lawyer, Larry Gadon filed a petition for prohibiton before the Supreme Court of the Philippines, seeking to stop Telecommunications Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, and House Committee on Legislative Franchises Chairman Franz Alvarez from issuing ABS-CBN's provisional authority, saying the provisional authority to operate violates the doctrine of separation of powers.
16 days after the shutdown, Gadon announces that he is withdrawing the petition which he filed, seeking to stop Cordoba, Cayetano, and Alvarez from issuing provisional authority, stating that was rendered moot and the act sought to be prevented no longer exists.
On June 2, 2020, the Supreme Court of the Philippines has dismissed the petition for prohibition against Telecommunications Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, and House Committee on Legislative Franchises Chairman Franz Alvarez from issuing provisional authority, stating that the court does not deem it efficient.
May 2020 broadcast stoppage[edit | edit source]
|"ABS-CBN goes off air in compliance with NTC order", ABS-CBN News via YouTube|
On May 3, 2020, Calida warned the NTC against granting the provisional authority to ABS-CBN, citing a Supreme Court decision in 2014, stating that provisional authority can only be granted after the franchise is secured in the Congress. In the same statement, Calida cautioned that the agency would put itself at risk of prosecution under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act should they issue the provisional authority without a legal franchise being held by ABS-CBN's operating companies, and that a 1991 DOJ opinion stating the NTC may issue provisional authority without a legal franchise was overturned by the Supreme Court.
On May 5, 2020, Philippine House Committee on Legislative Franchises Chairman Franz Alvarez warns the NTC from backtracking, if they did, the NTC can be held in contempt for refusal to issue a provisional authority to ABS-CBN. Six days ago, the House Committee on Legislative Franchises has issued a show cause order against NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, Deputy Commissioners Edgardo Cabarios, Delilah Deles, and Legal Branch Head Ella Blanca Lopez to explain why should not be cited in contempt for issuing the cease and desist order against ABS-CBN. Three days ago, the NTC has responded to the show cause order, stating that was legally bounded and apologized to the House of Representatives for failing to notify on ABS-CBN shutdown.
On the same day, NTC issued a cease and desist order to immediately close its free-to-air broadcasting operations, including its radio stations DZMM, S+A, and MOR, following the expiration of its broadcast franchise the day before. The cease and desist order covers 42 free television stations operated by ABS-CBN across the country, including the main ABS-CBN Network, S+A, ten digital broadcast channels, 18 FM stations, and five AM stations. However, ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), The Filipino Channel (TFC), DZMM TeleRadyo (renamed TeleRadyo due to the inclusion of DZMM in the order), and its sister cable channels (run by subsidiary Creative Programs), as well as its online properties, and production companies Star Music and Star Cinema, were allowed to continue as their operations are not contingent on the legislative franchise.
The network signed-off the air at 7:52 pm (PST) following the news program TV Patrol. ABS-CBN executives Carlo Katigbak and Mark Lopez aired statements on the program appealing the NTC's cease and desist order. The newscast was also simulcast on DZMM, S+A, and MOR stations. DZMM radio and television counterpart signed off at 8:20 pm, following SRO: Suhestyon, Reaksyon at Opinyon and rebranded simply as TeleRadyo following the newscast and the digital television networks available on ABS-CBN TV Plus including Asianovela Channel, Movie Central, and the terrestrial operations of Jeepney TV, Myx, O Shopping, and Knowledge Channel also signed off. However, Cine Mo!, Yey!, and KBO remain unaffected (during TV premiere of The Mall, The Merrier on KBO channel from May 1-6, 2020) after the cease and desist order.
Along with the order, NTC gave ABS-CBN 10 days to explain why its assigned frequencies should not be recalled. In response on May 15, 2020, ABS-CBN reasoned that "it would be detrimental to the public interest as it would hamper the ability of ABS-CBN to immediately resume serving the public through its broadcasts, once the franchise is granted". Additionally, House Bill 6732 was proposed by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on May 13, 2020, which would have granted the network a provisional franchise to operate until October 31, 2020. Subsequently, on May 27, 2020, NTC was told to refrain from carrying out the recall while the Congress deliberates on the measures to grant provisional franchise and a fresh franchise.
Post-shutdown developments[edit | edit source]
Network programming and legal action[edit | edit source]
On May 7, 2020, ABS-CBN's flagship news program TV Patrol resumed broadcast on ABS-CBN News Channel, as it simulcast the program from the main network since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic programming changes. It was also simulcast on its news website, its Facebook and YouTube pages, as well as on The Filipino Channel to viewers outside the country. On May 8, 2020, the following day TV Patrol began airing on Cine Mo! and returned on TeleRadyo.
ABS-CBN Corporation filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition as well as temporary restraining order (TRO) to the Supreme Court of the Philippines, seeking to nullify the NTC's cease and desist order on May 7, 2020. (See § Supreme Court case below.) The Senate and the House of the Representatives filed respective bills urging NTC to reconsider its order, as well as to abolish the agency itself.
On May 8, 2020, DZMM TeleRadyo, now rebranded as simply TeleRadyo, resumed its regular programming airing the usual DZMM programming format. TeleRadyo is carried through ABS-CBN TV Plus, making it one of three exclusive channels (the others being Cine Mo! and Yey!) that remain operational on digital free-to-air television after the NTC's order takes effect. ABS-CBN later clarified in a statement that the three channels, along with Kapamilya Box Office channel, continued broadcasting and received in Metro Manila, Laguna province, Iloilo province, and selected areas of Baguio through a blocktime agreement with AMCARA Broadcasting Network (former owner of Studio 23 from its 1996 launch until ABS-CBN acquired a stake in AMCARA in 2010) owned by the Carandang family. On the same day, MOR Philippines also resumed its online and cable operations through a national programming service set up by the network's flagship station in Metro Manila.
On May 11, 2020, House Representatives Paolo Duterte, Eric Go Yap, and Abraham Tolentino filed House Resolution No. 853, seeking to probe into the corporation's possible violation of its franchise.
On June 1, 2020, Jeepney TV and Asianovela Channel resumed broadcasting on ABS-CBN TV Plus as temporary channel replacements for ABS-CBN and S+A, but both channels are still on free trial.
On June 4, 2020, ABS-CBN announced on TV Patrol that a cable-and-satellite channel named Kapamilya Channel will launch on June 13, resuming the productions of ABS-CBN's dramas and live entertainment shows and airing its entertainment, educational and current affairs programming, along with temporary movie blocks. However, the dramas Make It With You and Pamilya Ko confirmed their cancellations and failed to complete its stories because of the network's temporary suspension of production of entertainment programs during the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Comedy gag show Banana Sundae would also not return to air.
On June 30, 2020, the NTC and Solicitor General Jose Calida issued an alias cease-and-desist order demanding ABS-CBN TV Plus to further stop broadcasting all of its digital free-to-air channels on UHF Channel 43 in Metro Manila and some provinces.
The Supreme Court initially set the date of tackling ABS-CBN's petition for a TRO on July 13, however, it was moved to August 4.
Congressional hearings for a new franchise[edit | edit source]
On May 13, 2020, House Bill 6732 proposed by House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, which grants the network a provisional franchise to operate until October 31, 2020 "unless sooner revoked or cancelled", was approved by the House of Representatives convening as a Committee of the Whole. The said bill was awaiting for a third and final reading after which it would have been transmitted to the Senate; but on May 19, 2020, the proposal was withdrawn with the chamber opting to go straight to hearing measures seeking to grant the media giant a fresh 25-year franchise.
- The first day of hearings was held on May 26, under the auspices of the Joint Committee for Legislative Franchises, Good Governance, and Public Accountability, where ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo Katigbak and Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta gave their respective side's opening statements.
- The second day, held on June 1, tackled the media conglomerate's ownership concerns.
- The third day was held on June 3, mainly focused on Eugenio Lopez III's citizenship.
- The fourth hearing was held on June 8, which also focused on Lopez III's citizenship. These first days of the hearings focused on Eugenio Lopez III dual citizenship status being a Filipino and an American citizen at the same time.
- The fifth hearing was held on June 11, which tackled the legalities of ABS-CBN's issuance of PDRs or Philippine Depositary Receipts. During the course of the hearing, the PDRs were determined to be legal but this has raised questions to the real motives of the financial instrument.
- The sixth hearing was held on June 15, tackled the media conglomerate's closure during Marcos regime and return to the Lopez family after the People Power Revolution in 1986. Questions on the return to the Lopez family were raised in particular to the arbitrary procedure and the settlement agreement that were agreed upon.
- The seventh hearing was held on June 17, which was attended by former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, tackled the constitutional 50-year limit on congressional franchises and airing of a program on DXAS-TV (ABS-CBN Davao) hosted by Duterte called Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa.
- The eighth hearing was held on June 29, tackled the network's blocktime agreement with AMCARA Broadcasting Network for continue airing the network's programs on free-to-air digital television through DWBM-TV (UHF Channel 43) in ABS-CBN TV Plus set-top box in Metro Manila, Laguna, selected areas of Baguio, and Iloilo. During the hearings, questions were raised both to AMCARA and ABS-CBN on the seemingly long term block time arrangements.
- The ninth hearing was held on June 30, tackled the media conglomerate's labor issues. Questions were raised on program-based contracts and independent contractors which are prevalent in most broadcasting companies.
- The tenth hearing was held on July 1, tackled the media conglomerate's tax delinquencies. Questions were raised regarding the actual tax payments of ABS-CBN pointing out to government tax incentives that were availed.
- The eleventh hearing was held on July 2, continuing the issues on taxes and labor practices.
- The twelfth hearing was held on July 6, tackling allegations of biased reporting from the network and its coverage of the 2016 general election, and also tackled issues regarding bias and morality on some past ABS-CBN news and programs.
- The thirteenth hearing which was a summation of arguments was held on July 9, with Representatives Carlos Zarate and Rodante Marcoleta respectively delivering the closing arguments for, and against the renewal.
- On July 10, members of the House of Representatives, particularly the Committee on Legislative Franchises, voted 70–11 to deny the franchise application of ABS-CBN, citing several issues on the network's franchise.
House of Representatives votes on the franchise renewal[edit | edit source]
On July 10, 2020, out of the 84 members of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises:
- 11 voted "no" to the resolution of denying the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise, (meaning the franchise will be renewed);
- 70 voted "yes" to the resolution of denying the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise;
- 2 were recused from voting; and
- 1 was abstained from voting.
The following is a list of how members of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises voted.
Supreme Court case[edit | edit source]
ABS-CBN Corporation v. National Telecommunications Commission (G.R. No. 252119) was a case before the Supreme Court of the Philippines. On May 7, 2020, ABS-CBN filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition asking the Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the implementation of the National Telecommunications Commission's cease and desist order. If granted, this TRO would allow them to operate until the case is decided. However, some lawyers have questioned the legal merits of the petition, as it was filed right to the Supreme Court, even before a motion for reconsideration before the NTC or a case in the Court of Appeals. In the petition, ABS-CBN argues that it is proper to have filed first in the Supreme Court, as the case in their view involves "genuine issues of constitutionality that must be addressed at the most immediate time" and that their petition is of "transcendental importance". On May 18, Larry Gadon filed a motion for consolidation against the ABS-CBN's temporary restraining order, stating that it violates the hiearchy of the courts and the case must be filed at the CA. The following day, the Court accepted the case, ordered the NTC to reply, and impleaded both the House and Senate and dismissing Gadon's plea for a consolidation. The NTC filed its required comment on May 26.
The Supreme Court set a further hearing for July 13 on the merits of the petition, though there may not be a ruling on that date. However, the hearing was rescheduled to August 4, 2020.
The petition to issue a temporary restraining order was dismissed by the Supreme Court on August 25, 2020.
Recall of frequencies and channels[edit | edit source]
On September 10, 2020, the NTC issued an order that authorizes it to recall all of the TV and radio frequencies and channels that were assigned to ABS-CBN and its related radio and local TV stations. This was justified as warranted, as it had no valid legislative franchise to begin with. In addition, the NTC also said that all provisional authorities and certificates of public convenience granted to ABS-CBN were also revoked and cancelled.
Blocktime deals and partnership agreements[edit | edit source]
ZOE Broadcasting Network[edit | edit source]
On October 6, 2020, ABS-CBN Corporation announced a blocktime deal with ZOE Broadcasting Network to air selected ABS-CBN shows from its owned television network on Channel 11's A2Z (formerly ZOE TV) beginning on October 10, after almost three years of speculated rumors. Alongside, the network would also aired Light TV-produced programs, ZOE's content partners including CBN Asia and Trinity Broadcasting Network, and others including its blocktimers, licensors, and providers. A month of launching of the said new channel, the NTC were reportedly to investigate ABS-CBN and ZOE Broadcasting Network if the said blocktime agreement of two stations are processed in legal ways.
Brightlight Productions and TV5/Cignal[edit | edit source]
On January 18, 2021, the Philippine Star's entertainment columnist Ricky Lo was reported that a possible partnership between ABS-CBN and its rival TV5 might happen very soon through its programming partner Cignal TV, which will allow ABS-CBN to air its programs on the rival network and its regional stations, aside from its existing agreement with ZOE Broadcasting Network (which only limited to Mega Manila area). The partnership has become evident when ABS-CBN's flagship Sunday variety show ASAP Natin 'To is reported to be carried on TV5 beginning January 24, replacing Sunday Noontime Live! (which headlined by some ABS-CBN talents). On March 8, 2021, TV5 began simulcasting the "Primetime Bida" block of Kapamilya Channel.
2021 franchise approval initiatives[edit | edit source]
On December 8, 2020, Buhay Party-List Representative and Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza said that the approval of the ABS-CBN franchise might happen on 2021 under the House leadership of Lord Allan Velasco, as he assures the speaker to give some ample time to settle the franchise. On January 4, 2021, Senate President Tito Sotto filed a Senate Bill No. 1967 that seeks to grant ABS-CBN's franchise for another 25 years, with at least 16 senators backing its support for Sotto's bill. Later that day, Batangas 6th District Representative and Deputy Speaker Vilma Santos-Recto, one of the 11 representatives who voted in favor of the franchise on July 10, 2020, said that she will refile her same franchise bill in the House, which Santos-Recto filed a House Bill No. 8298 on January 18. However, Representative Rodante Marcoleta, one of the 70 representatives who voted against the franchise on July 10, 2020, reiterated that "major changes" is needed for the network to be able to regain its franchise.
Reactions, impacts, effects, and aftermath[edit | edit source]
Prior to broadcast stoppage[edit | edit source]
Before the expiration of the broadcast franchise, ABS-CBN talents and employees conducted weekly demonstrations in front of its headquarters in Quezon City as well as in its regional stations from January to February 2020. During these demonstrations, presidential daughter and incumbent Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio expressed support for the franchise renewal.
After the broadcast stoppage[edit | edit source]
The NTC's cease and desist order on ABS-CBN was met by widespread criticism by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) (in which the network is one of its members), as well as various advocacy groups, business organizations, the local Catholic church, and even some members of the Congress. Several journalists and celebrities from the network and its rival GMA Network expressed solidarity with ABS-CBN after it was ordered to cease its radio and TV broadcast. The hashtag #NoToABSCBNShutDown topped the local and worldwide Twitter trending lists the same day.
Within a day, numerous colleges and universities in the Philippines, including the UPLB College of Development Communication, Ateneo de Manila University and its Communication Department, the University of Santo Tomas, St. Scholastica's College and its Mass Communication Department, De La Salle University, and the UP Diliman College of Mass Communication released statements supporting the franchise renewal of ABS-CBN.
The network's shutdown is noted to have placed the job security of 11,000 ABS-CBN employees in jeopardy during the COVID-19 pandemic, though the company assured them stable salary, and complete health and financial benefits for the next 2 months following the shutdown. In response, the government may give a 2-month aid to the employees of ABS-CBN.
GMA Network's shares increased by 24% as the Philippine Stock Exchange voluntarily suspends ABS-CBN's trading. However, investors remained cautious on GMA's stock rally due to the effects of the shutdown on business confidence.
President Duterte has denied involvement with the network's shutdown, despite earlier assertions that he will oppose franchise renewal. His spokesman, Harry Roque, also thanked the network for its assistance to the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Roque, the president cannot mark the bill renewing ABS-CBN's franchise as urgent because it involves private interest, and that the president will be neutral to the renewal.
On May 5, 2020, GMA Network's primetime news program 24 Oras interviewed the Federation of International Cable TV and Telecommunications Association of the Philippines (FICTAP) President Estrellita Juliano Tamano, who claimed that ABS-CBN violated their 1995 legislative broadcast by airing six channels. She argued that ABS-CBN should be instead broadcasting in one channel only and instead file for a new franchise for every channel they broadcast.
On May 7, 2020, Philippine Cable and Telecommunications Association Inc (PCTA) President Ronaldo Manlapig argued that there is no need to file for a separate franchise for each channel as ABS-CBN is using digital transmission through their frequency, hence the multiple channels.
Public criticism in the early days after the shutdown revolved around the NTC, for lack of fairness on the agency's cease and desist order on the network, and Congress – especially the lower house – for inaction to pass the franchise renewal bill.
ABS-CBN's shutdown received international attention as news websites, magazines, newspapers, and broadcasters from around the world including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Variety, BBC News, CBS News, Time, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, the Associated Press, ABC News, NHK, KBS, Yonhap News Agency, the Financial Times, and The Straits Times published stories on the network's shutdown.
The discontinuation of ABS-CBN's terrestrial broadcast operations created difficulties during the onslaught of Typhoon Vongfong (Ambo), when authorities and residents of some distant provinces, including Aurora, Quezon, and Sorsogon, reported being unable to get updated information about the typhoon from other sources, because ABS-CBN was the only national television station whose signal could reach them, and internet data was hard to get in their area.
On June 4, 2020, it was announced that Kapamilya Channel will air programs from ABS-CBN such as Ang Probinsyano and ASAP Natin 'To beginning June 13, 2020 on cable and satellite TV providers nationwide.
After the committee vote[edit | edit source]
Some members of the Congress expressed dismay over the decision, including Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez who called the denial "defying evidence". Progressive and sectoral groups in the Philippines such as Akbayan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Pamalakaya also slammed the body for the vote. However, on July 13, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano stood by the decision to deny the network its franchise. From July 11 until the end of the month, supporters organized a nightly noise barrage in front of the ABS-CBN studios in Quezon City in opposition of the verdict. Other similarly-styled demonstrations were held in front of the respective ABS-CBN stations in Davao City, Bacolod City, and Naga City. On July 26, demonstrations in Cagayan de Oro City were marred after three funeral wreaths containing ribbons glorifying the New People's Army were left by yet to be identified individuals in front of the ABS-CBN station in the city. National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Western Mindanao Safety Officer JB Deveza called such action "a form of death threat" aimed to intimidate the network employees and the action appeared to be a part of a coordinated red-tagging operation.
On July 16, a movement named People's Initiative for Reforms and Movement for Action (PIRMA), an independent and organic collective of concerned Filipinos moving to advance reforms via people's initiative and referendum, launched a signature campaign for a cause called "PIRMA Kapamilya", that aims to grant ABS-CBN a people's franchise via democratic experiment of a people's initiative. The signature campaign started on July 25 and aims to gathered 7 million signatures nationwide (3% of registered voters in each legislative district and at least 10% of total registered voters) to the COMELEC as a requirement for validation to call for a referendum of said franchise.
In a related manner, Kantar Media Philippines (ABS-CBN's main client and partner) originally announced the closure of its television ratings service by the end of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the broadcast stoppage of ABS-CBN, however, the decision was reversed following the blocktime deal between ABS-CBN and ZOE, as well as retaining the majority of its existing staff.
Cessations, retrenchments, and negotiations[edit | edit source]
On July 15, ABS-CBN announced on a statement that it would lay off a number of its workers and close down some of its business operations in light of the denial of the franchise effective August 31.
According to the town-hall meeting called by management hours before the release of the statement, among the first entities bound to close were:
- all MOR Philippines terrestrial radio stations including its flagship, MOR 101.9 in Manila. After the said date, MOR eventually consolidated its programming to different new media (online) skeletal stations including Baguio, Manila, and Cagayan de Oro.
- the ABS-CBN Film Archives and its film restoration program, the ABS-CBN Film Restoration Project resulting the restoration of the 1984 film Soltero to being rushed to completion before the retrenchment date.
- ABS-CBN Regional, with the regional editions of TV Patrol and their respective provincial morning programs ending their broadcasts on August 28. After the said date, its regional news bureaus remained open in different areas including Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, and Cebu City.
- the current affairs and documentary divisions of the ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs, tasked for programs such as My Puhunan, Kuha Mo!, Failon Ngayon, and Rated K (now Rated Korina on TV5), resulting to these programs being unceremoniously cancelled.
Other company divisions that announced their respective dissolution and reduction of workforces prior to or beyond the July 15 announcement and the August 31 take effect, unless otherwise noted were:
- ACJ O Shopping Corporation (joint venture between ABS-CBN and CJ ENM O Shopping Division that owned O Shopping) on July 8, with its retrenchment begun on August 7, and closure on November 1, only retaining its online portal until November 15.
- ABS-CBN Sports and ABS-CBN University on July 16. The closure of the sports division left the broadcast contracts of collegiate leagues such as the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP; now with Cignal TV) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA; now with GMA Network), the semi-professional Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), and the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) in jeopardy. The division's sports channel Liga permanently closed on October 30, owing to lack of advertisers and the ensuing programming redundancy.
- Creative Communication Management (CCM) division on July 18, reducing its workforce from a high of over 170 creatives to a group of 20 on August 31.
- ABS-CBN Digital Media's owned platform One Music PH on July 20.
- KidZania Manila (owned 73% by ABS-CBN Theme Parks & Resorts and operated by Play Innovations, Inc.) on July 22.
- ABS-CBN Tulong Center on July 29, with its closure on August 1.
- ABS-CBN's executive dining restaurant Restaurant 9501 and lifestyle website Chalk.ph on August 8.
- the company's loyalty freebies program Kapamilya, Thank You! on August 15.
- other ABS-CBN assets including ABS-CBN Studio Tours, ABS-CBN Store, ABS-CBN Studio Experience at TriNoma, Heroes Burger, Hado Pilipinas, and multi-channel network Adober Studios on August 28.
As of September 1, 2020, there were about 4,452 employees and workers that were displaced, retrenched, or laid-off by the company itself, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Among the notable ones were:
- Ces Oreña-Drilon
- Korina Sanchez (moved to TV5)
- Ted Failon (moved to TV5)
- Anthony Taberna (moved to DZRH)
- Cathy Yap-Yang (now with PLDT)
Reports that the media conglomerate (including the divisions and subsidiaries) are rumored to be possibly in talks with respective businesses, companies, and establishments, including the rival networks, firms, and others (e.g. for an acquisition or a bidding) were:
- Sky Cable Corporation: On August 13, it was reported that the telecommunications firm was put up for sale in three bidders: Dennis Anthony Uy (CEO of Converge ICT Solutions), Dennis Uy (Davao-based and owner of Dito Telecommunity), and Ayala Corporation. Manuel V. Pangilinan (businessman and owner of such companies as PLDT and Cignal TV) was also reportedly to purchase the said firm, however on November 5, he withdrew his bid citing regulatory risks.
Reports that companies (including the broadcast media network) are rumored to be possibly in talks with the media company, its network, divisions and subsidiaries (e.g. for an agreement or a deal) were:
- Brightlight Productions (owned by businessman and former Negros Occidental's 3rd district representative Albee Benitez): On September 13, ABS-CBN confirmed that some Kapamilya stars were scheduled to appear on TV5 by airing new programs produced by the said production company, as part of the blocktime agreement with its talents are still part of and under contract with Star Magic.
- GMA Network (jointly owned by Felipe Gozon, Gilberto Duavit, Jr., and Joel Marcelo Jimenez, and ABS-CBN's rival): are reportedly in talks with Star Magic for a possible hiring of its talents.
- TV5 (owned by businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan and ABS-CBN's rival): said they are both in talks to possibly hire displaced workers of ABS-CBN who are affected by the retrenchment with TV5 also saying that they are open to work with them. There were reports that TV5 was planning to buy and transfer some ABS-CBN programs such as Banana Sundae and Home Sweetie Home to the same network, however, the ABS-CBN management said that its programs are not for sale and are still owned by the network, and the cast of Banana Sundae joined Brightlight's Sunday 'Kada that is airing on the same network.
- ZOE Broadcasting Network (owned by Jesus is Lord Church leader, Eddie Villanueva): were also reportedly in talks with ABS-CBN for a blocktime agreement or channel leasing with September 28 as a tentative schedule offering for broadcasting 20 hours of airtime on ZOE's owned free-TV frequency. Originally, both ABS-CBN and ZOE have been reported to be holding talks for a possible airtime lease of Channel 11 or acquisition of the network itself since 2017 if the issues regarding ABS-CBN's expired broadcast franchise ever happened. According to reported internal discussions, programs such as Ang Probinsyano, ASAP Natin 'To, It's Showtime, and TV Patrol were being shopped to air on ZOE TV. Channel 11 was formerly leased by ABS-CBN's rival GMA Network/Citynet Network Marketing and Productions for its secondary television networks QTV and GMA News TV from 2005 to 2019. (See § Blocktime deals and partnership agreements above.)
Long−term impacts[edit | edit source]
Information gaps during the wall-to-wall media coverage of typhoons that occurred in the 4th quarter of 2020, particularly Typhoon Molave (Quinta), Typhoon Goni (Rolly), and Typhoon Vamco (Ulysses) in some parts of the country including Cagayan Valley (especially the ensuing widespread floods) and Bicol Region, were attributed to the ABS-CBN shutdown, with reports noting the void left by the closure of its provincial news bureaus and lack of a strong signal reach in provinces far from Manila.
References[edit | edit source]
- Cervantes, Filane Mikee. "Several issues led to denial of ABS-CBN franchise bid: House body", Philippine News Agency, July 10, 2020.
- Cervantes, Filane Mikee. "ABS-CBN didn't comply with franchise terms, laws: House leader", Philippine News Agency, May 26, 2020.
- Pulta, Benjamin. "Calida details ABS-CBN 'monopoly' practices in quo warranto suit", Philippine News Agency, February 12, 2020.
- Quismorio, Ellson. "Amcara signal comes from ABS-CBN tower, NTC tells House", Manila Bulletin, July 2, 2020.
- Cervantes, Filane Mikee. "House panel junks ABS-CBN's bid for a 25-year franchise", Philippine News Agency, July 10, 2020.
- Solon calls for investigation into ABS-CBN-A2Z Channel 11 blocktime deal (en).
- House told NTC, BIR to investigate ABS-Zoe blocktime deal (en).
- Cabato, Regine (May 5, 2020). Philippines orders its largest broadcaster off the air as nation fights virus (en). The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 5, 2020.
- Congressional Franchises as a Weapon to Defeat a Free Press (June 17, 2016). Archived from the original on September 2, 2016.
- Gomez, Jim (May 5, 2020). Philippines Orders Leading TV Network to Shut Down as Watchdogs Accuse President of Muzzling Independent Media (en). Time. Archived from the original on May 6, 2020.
- READ: ABS-CBN Corp statement on the NTC order vs TV Plus channels. ABS-CBN News (June 30, 2020).
- NTC to issue alias shutdown order vs ABS-CBN after getting SolGen advice. ABS-CBN News (June 29, 2020).
- Christia Marie Ramos. Calida warns NTC vs granting provisional authority to ABS-CBN. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Archived from the original on May 5, 2020.
- Philippines largest TV network ABS-CBN ordered shut. Al Jazeera (May 6, 2020).
- READ: ABS-CBN President and CEO Carlo L. Katigbak's message on the cease and desist order issued to ABS-CBN. ABS-CBN News (May 5, 2020).
- House panel junks ABS-CBN's bid for a 25-year franchise. Philippine News Agency (July 10, 2020).
- Several issues led to denial of ABS-CBN franchise bid: House body. Philippine News Agency (July 10, 2020).
- The Cignal-TV5 & ABS-CBN tie-up happening very soon. The Philippine Star (January 18, 2021).
- ASAP Natin 'To, mapapanood na sa TV5 simula sa January 24 (Filipino). PEP.ph (January 18, 2021).
- TV5 to simulcast ABS-CBN’s Primetime Bida starting March 8. ABS-CBN News (March 5, 2021).
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