Shutdown of giant TV network sends chills to Philippine media, public

The ABS-CBN tower viewed from Tomas Morato Avenue in Quezon City, Philippines. Photo by Diana G. Mendoza

Manila-- A specter of martial law. A move to fully snuff out press freedom and freedom of expression. A final blow to democracy. The chills brought by the shutdown of ABS-CBN Channel 2, the Philippines' largest TV network, were felt across the country as its final broadcast aired at 7:52 pm local time, on May 5, 2020, just as the curfew was enforced in Metro Manila and the entire Luzon island under the Covid-19 lockdown.

“We can’t even hug each other,” Ces Orena-Drilon, one of the network’s veteran broadcast journalists, twitted about the media workers’ observance of social distancing, a Covid-19 precautionary health measure, as they wept and became emotional inside the newsrooms when the station ID and the playing of the Philippine national anthem trailed the final broadcast, before TV screens of Filipinos watching the channel went black.

The closure was prompted by a legal cease-and-desist order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for the station to stop its TV and radio broadcasting after its 25-year broadcast franchise expired the previous day.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte