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MVP open to giving ABS-CBN a hand

/ 05:14 AM December 31, 2019

TV5 chair Manuel V. Pangilinan is open to supporting media giant and rival ABS-CBN Corp. through the potential loss of its broadcast franchise next year, but fears over political retribution could hinder any deal.

Pangilinan heads some of the country’s largest companies such as telecommunications provider PLDT Inc. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp., an infrastructure conglomerate with interests in power, water, tollroad and railways.

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When asked about a possible deal for ABS-CBN to rent TV5’s airtime, otherwise known as a blocktime agreement, the businessman said he was open to negotiations should they materialize.

“Setting aside politics, if they want to blocktime, we are prepared to talk,” Pangilinan told reporters while clarifying there were no ongoing discussions with ABS-CBN.

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A potential alliance between ABS-CBN and TV5, first reported by the news website Bilyonaryo— which cited an unnamed source—would help keep ABS-CBN’s massive television business afloat should its broadcast franchise expire by March 30, 2020.

ABS-CBN’s chances of a franchise extension remain dim with President Duterte repeatedly threatening to block its renewal amid a feud that supposedly began when the TV network failed to air his advertisements during the 2016 presidential elections.

For Mr. Duterte’s critics, the row was mere cover for a chance to silence a powerful media organization that, at times, has been critical of his administration’s policies.

Pangilinan said his group, whose telco and water businesses had already been pressured to waive billions of pesos in forgone revenue during Mr. Duterte’s term, would need to weigh Malacañang’s reaction to any deal.

“Of course, politically, the President might say something so we’re a bit reluctant,” he said.

ABS-CBN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pangilinan has been a steady business ally of the Lopezes that own ABS-CBN. Several of Metro Pacific’s core businesses such as North Luzon Expressway, Manila Electric Co. and Maynilad Water Services Inc. were once controlled by the Lopez family.

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Even then, Pangilinan said “I don’t want to be presumptuous if they will come and talk to us” about ABS-CBN.

He also shot down any prospect of selling TV5, which continues to post losses a decade since it was acquired by the media arm of PLDT, or its other media assets to the Lopezes.

“I don’t want to think about it because it won’t happen,” Pangilinan said.

ABS-CBN, which was seized from the Lopez family by allies of President Ferdinand Marcos during the Martial Law years from the 1970s until the regime was toppled by the People Power Revolution in 1986, is now one of the country’s largest media groups.

Its current 25-year franchise, granted in 1995, allows it to operate TV and radio facilities.

Despite its diversification into high-speed broadband, theme parks as well as international and digital productions, ABS-CBN still relies on advertising from its TV business for about half of its revenues, which hit P40 billion in 2018.

The company is also a major employer with close to 11,000 workers, some 6,730 of which were regular employees, its latest annual report showed.

Bills to renew ABS-CBN’s franchise have languished in Congress for years under Mr. Duterte.

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TAGS: ABS-CBN Corp., Manuel V. Pangilinan
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