Philippines: ABS-CBN Deal with Televangelist Allows Shows to Return to TV

Aie Balagtas See
201007-PH-media-620.jpg An ABS-CBN Corp. supporter protests the cancellation of its broadcast franchise by the Philippine Congress, July 10, 2020.
Luis Liwanag/BenarNews

ABS-CBN Corp., the Philippine television and radio network that was shut down by the government earlier this year, has signed an agreement with an obscure station owned by a Christian televangelist to allow it to resume some free-to-air programs starting this weekend, the network said.

The broadcaster said its partnership with Zoe Broadcasting Network Inc. would allow it to air some of its entertainment programs on free-to-air television using the latter’s frequency by Saturday. The rebranded channel is expected to be available in Metropolitan Manila and nearby areas.

“Starting Saturday (Oct. 10), some entertainment shows and movies of ABS-CBN will be seen on the newly rebranded A2Z channel 11 through an agreement between ABS-CBN and Zoe Broadcasting Network Inc.,” ABS-CBN said. “ABS-CBN and Zoe are committed to work together to provide entertainment, public service programs and education content to the public.”

Zoe is a TV network owned by Eddie Villanueva, an influential evangelist and founder of the Jesus is Lord Church. Based in Manila, JIL, as it is known, has become a bit player in Philippine politics.

Villanueva is an activist who was jailed for protesting against dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law, which ended in a “people power” revolt in 1986. He later ran in the presidential elections of 2004 and 2010 and for a senate seat three years later, losing all three times.

His son, former three-term congressman Joel Villanueva, is a senator.

The broadcasters did not provide additional details of their deal that returns ABS-CBN to the airwaves after President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies in Congress denied its application for renewing a 25-year franchise.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Zoe, as the franchise holder, would be subject to any potential regulation.

“We have no reaction to it because they are a content provider,” Roque said about ABS-CBN. “For all intents and purposes, it is Zoe that will be subject to regulation because Zoe is the franchise holder.”

Roque acknowledged that ABS-CBN, as a content provider, did not need a franchise under its agreement with Zoe TV.

Opposition members as well as media watchdog groups have decried the closure of ABS-CBN, which they see as an affront to press freedom.

Prior to losing its franchise, ABS-CBN was the country’s largest broadcasting network and its reporting on Duterte’s policies, including his administration’s drug war that has left thousands dead, led to frequent complaints from the president.

Duterte’s government also has gone after Rappler, an online news site whose editor, Maria Ressa, has been convicted of libel and is free as she appeals her case. Like ABS-CBN, Rappler has angered Duterte over its reporting on the drug war.

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