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Politics behind radio station closure – Albay broadcaster

By Mar S. Arguelles

Politics was behind the closure on Monday, Nov. 8, of the Zagitsit News FM station in Legazpi City by the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) for operating with an expired temporary permit, according to Hermogenes Alegre Jr., the station owner and manager.

The NTC in Bicol served on Monday morning a cease and desist order (SDO) eventually closing the operation of the station because of an expired temporary permit, absence of a studio to transmitter link radio station license, and violation of the terms and conditions of its provisional authority.

The NTC order complied with a directive by the House of Representatives, Committee on Legislative Franchises to explain why it has been allowing Zagitsit News FM registered and with a business permit under Hermogenes Alegre II to use one of its assigned frequencies of the Hypersonic Broadcasting Center Inc., (HBC) the franchise permit holder.

The closure order took effect on Nov. 8, 2021 and the station owner was given 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration of the closure order.

Alegre in a press conference said he was surprised by the SDO closing down the station as according to him the station has been for the past six years operating with the NTC regularly inspecting compliance of the station of the terms and conditions of its provisional authority.

Acknowledging the SDO, Alegre said, “we were served a notice to explain and submit a motion for reconsideration until Nov. 19 but to my surprise, the SDO was served on Monday.”

“We are committed to abide by the law and find legal remedies to address the issue. What is disturbing was politics are all behind this,” Alegre a veteran broadcast journalist and a reporter of MBC DZRH station.

He believed that with politics behind the closure, this would be another case of trampling on freedom of the press citing the cases of the ABS-CBN closure and the filing of a cyber libel case against Maria Ressa of Rappler.

Alegre said the move was “unfair.” Why single us out, there is also a radio station owned by a politician that is operating without a permit, he added.

He said that with the station closure, 25 of its personnel were rendered jobless. The station is spending some P200,000 monthly for the salaries and allowances prior to its closure.

Also affected is a large number of beneficiaries of the station’s public affairs program who would be deprived of assistance, Alegre said.

As this developed, Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin, a member of the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, in a phone interview said it was the job of the committee to grant or deny franchises sought by media networks “so it is inherent to the committee to check and ask the NTC whether those given franchisees are complying with the requirements.”

In the case of the Zagitsit, it was found out that for six years of operations they continuously failed to comply as they were operating without a franchise, Garbin said.

Garbin, a lawyer, said the franchise given to HBC Inc., was an exclusive right that could not be sold, and rented, “the laws say it does not righten into a right – to operate without a franchise is illegal and therefore an illegal act.”

Alegre, a close ally of incumbent Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, is running for the Albay provincial board for the second district of Albay.

While Garbin is running for Legazpi City mayoral post, challenging Geraldine Rosal, the wife of incumbent Mayor Rosal.

Rosal who is on his last term as city mayor has filed his candidacy for governor and is challenging reelectionist Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara who is on his last term as governor.

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