MANILA, Philippines – The academic community joined other groups in condemning lawmakers who voted against ABS-CBN's franchise renewal, saying these people pursued their "personal grudges and interests" instead of the greater good.
Professors and educators from the Philippine Association of Communication Educators (PACE), University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP CMC), and UP Department of Communication Research stood by their colleagues and alumni working at the largest broadcasting network in the Philippines to condemn the denial of its franchise application.
"We deplore how the franchise hearings, bereft as they were of communication and media experts nor of solid academic research that would back allegations of news bias and inappropriate content, were used to legitimize the expression of personal grudges and interests rather than the greater good," the UP Department of Communication Research said in its statement.
The House of Representatives conducted a total of 13 hearings on the franchise bills, mostly conducted after the National Telecommunications Commission ordered ABS-CBN to cease its television and radio operations a day after its franchise lapsed on May 4.
During one of these hearings, lawmakers threshed out the alleged issues on ABS-CBN's “biased” reporting and grilled ABS-CBN executives over their coverages of the 2016 elections, Dengvaxia issue, and even the ongoing franchise hearings.
ABS-CBN Integrated News and Current Affairs chief Regina "Ging" Reyes defended her reporters, telling lawmakers that ABS-CBN journalists keep their biases in check and correct mistakes as needed. (READ: After franchise rejection, ABS-CBN says: 'Kapit lang')
The franchise rejection also came after Duterte's sustained threats against ABS-CBN after it earned the president's ire for failing to air around P6.6 million worth of political advertisements during the 2016 elections.
In its statement, UP CMC reminded lawmakers that the job of the media is to "serve as watchdog of society and not serve as politicians' public relations arm."
UP CMC also pointed out that those most affected by the House panel vote are "Filipinos in far-flung areas who will be deprived of timely and useful information regarding the pandemic and calamity alerts" and the network's 11,000 employees – many of whom are alumni of the college.
Communications educators' group PACE vowed to fend off attacks against press freedom by helping voters make a more informed choice in the next elections. (READ: 'We will fight back': Media groups slam House panel for denying ABS-CBN franchise)
"In the next elections, PACE shall join electoral education initiatives to remind the voters that no one, not even lawmakers, shall curtail press freedom," PACE said. (READ: Sectoral groups vow to remember how House panel voted on ABS-CBN franchise)
"We will write in Philippine media books and we will always teach students enrolled in Communication and its allied fields that today, July 10, 2020, is an unfortunate historical moment because of the legislators and their invisible powers-that-be who assaulted press freedom," it added. – Rappler.com