THE Senate on Monday moved to extend for another 25 years the franchise of Smart Communications Inc.
With 15 affirmative votes, two negative and no abstention, the Senate approved on third and final reading House Bill 4631 that seeks to grant the telecommunications company a franchise to “establish, install, maintain, lease and operate integrated telecommunications/computer/ electronic services, and stations throughout the country for public, domestic and international telecommunications.”
Senators Panfilo Lacson and Risa Hontiveros voted against the measure.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Committee on Public Services, compels Smart to install facilities and bring under its coverage areas not yet served, specifically those prone to calamity.
“We are requiring it to upgrade and program its entire infrastructure to be on standby to send out free mobile disaster alerts as mandated by Republic Act No. 10639,” Poe said.
The bill retained the requirement for congressional consent “on the sale, lease, transfer, usufruct or assignment of the franchise.
The Senate, via 17 affirmative votes, also approved on final reading HB 4631 which gives GMA Network another 25 year franchise.
The bill requires the network to provide free public service time to government, relay important public announcements and warnings as needed or required by law.
It also compels the network to provide sound and balanced programming, promote public participation, assist in the functions of public information and education as well as promote audience sensibility and empowerment through closed captioning.
Republic Act RA 10905 or the Closed Caption Law, is the method of “subtitling television programs by coding statements as vertical data signal that are decoded at the receiver and superimposed at the bottom of the television screen.”
“GMA Network is now global as it is viewed by Filipinos all over the world through its international channels. In the digital space, GMA’s portal is one of the most visited Filipino websites,” Poe said.
GMA currently has 47 Ultra High Frequency (UHF) and 41 Very High Frequency (VHF) TV stations nationwide as well as AM and FM stations led by DZBB and DWLS.