Broadcast giant GMA Network, Inc. urged the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to reinstate the rule on the airtime allotment in the 2010 elections, and sought the recall of the controversial provisions of Resolution No. 9615 (New Rules), as emphasized by the Network, through its counsel, in the hearing before the COMELEC today, January 31, at the COMELEC Session Hall.
In a letter dated January 30, 2013, GMA, through legal counsel Atty. Roberto Rafael V. Lucila and Atty. Pierre M. Cantara of Belo Gozon Elma Parel Asuncion & Lucila Law Office, reiterated the points made in its earlier letter to the poll body requesting for a clarification, among others, on whether “the minutes granted to a candidate or party under the New Rules include all of the minutes of political advertisements which such a candidate would be entitled to use on all television networks and stations, as well as cable TV.”
If so, the Network maintained that in the scenario envisioned by the COMELEC under the New Rules “broadcasting entities would surely encounter insurmountable difficulties in monitoring the broadcasting minutes spent by the numerous candidates for various elective positions.”
GMA said that compliance with the New Rules will be “cruel and oppressive” particularly considering that TV and radio stations and their officers would be exposed to criminal liability for any violation of the candidates of their airtime limits.
GMA alone operates numerous radio and television stations nationwide, which are authorized to de-chain national programs for airing and insertion of local content and advertisements. GMA said that “the number of stations to be monitored would increase exponentially when other radio and television stations are taken into consideration.”
The Network noted that an inquiry with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) bears out that there are 372 television stations and 398 AM and 800 FM radio stations nationwide as of June 2012, in addition to the 1,113 cable TV providers authorized to operate within the country.
Given such numbers and the necessity to monitor political advertisements pursuant to the New Rules, GMA highlighted the significant increase in manhours and additional costs needed “in order to obtain an accurate determination of a political candidate’s remaining broadcasting minutes.”
GMA added that it would entail the “allotment of added radio, television, recording equipment and computers, as well as telecommunications equipment, for this surveillance and monitoring exercise,” thus imputing a financial burden on the company. GMA said that this would have to be replicated by each and every radio and television station “to ensure that they have properly monitored around 33 national and more than 40,000 local candidates’ broadcasting minutes” to prevent any risk of criminal liability.
The Network also said that the reduced broadcasting airtime limits “deprives both the candidates and the public the opportunity to articulate and know more about the candidates’ qualifications, their ideals, and the programs they espouse” in light of the limited minutes that a candidate is allowed to utilize during the duration of the campaign period.
GMA added that “the change in a candidate’s broadcasting airtime limits under the New Rules contradicts the need for a candidate to make known his qualifications to voters and for the public to learn more about the backgrounds and platforms of the candidates.” Such necessity is recognized by the COMELEC itself as it mandated in Section 12 and 13 of the New Rules the procurement of print space and airtime to give candidates the opportunity to announce their candidacy.
The Network pointed out that Section 13 even provides that radio and television stations are required to provide airtime of at least 60 minutes daily which highlights the necessity of a certain number of minutes on radio and TV to ensure the effective dissemination of information.
In addition, GMA said that Section 13(b) of the New Rules recognizes the limitations of broadcast media so that no single broadcast entity can cover nationwide broadcast services.”
GMA also adopted the “issues and objections raised by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas in its earlier letter dated January 23, 2013 particularly those concerning the Constitutional and legal issues affecting the New Rules, as well as the possibility that certain regulations affecting broadcast and cable television were not considered.”