MANILA - GMA Network Inc is opposing the migration of SkyCable to digital, as the shift would entail removing all analog free-to-air TV channels, except for ABS-CBN.
In a statement, GMA said it informed the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) about its opposition to SkyCable’s exclusive carriage of the analog signal of ABS-CBN on Channel 8, as well as the cable operator's plan to discontinue its analog TV service and to require payment for digital transmission of other heretofore free-to-air channels.
GMA said SkyCable should enlist the consent of its subscribers before imposing the extra charge for continuing to view what used to be free-to-air channels.
NTC Memorandum Circular 4-8-88 or the Must-Carry Rule requires SkyCable to show free-to-air TV channels. But since the migration to digital would entail additional costs, SkyCable subscribers will have to begin paying for these channels.
GMA pointed out that the NTC earlier found SkyCable liable for the arbitrary re-assignment of TV channels, especially rivals of the cable operator's parent, ABS-CBN.
GMA cited NTC's decision dated April 25, 2003 in Adm. Case No. 99-013 ordering SkyCable “to cease and desist from arbitrarily changing channel assignments without advance written notice to KBP members’ TV stations, the public and the approval of the NTC.”
The said decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals in 2008 and has long become final and executory.
In its present complaint, GMA said the act of blocking the free TV networks “does not only constitute re-assigning of [free-to-air] channels but a total dropping of these channels from the menu of television programs available to the public."
GMA said this “should surely be considered in breach of the 2003 [NTC] decision, the Must-Carry Rule as well as the mandate of RA 7969, which requires minimum interference with operations of existing stations.”
Republic Act No 7969 is the franchise of Central CATV Inc, the operator of SkyCable. Both companies are owned by the Lopez group.
Apart from its failure to abide by the Must-Carry Rule, SkyCable’s move to carry the ABS-CBN channel in analog form while requiring subscribers to pay for access to rival channels represents unfair competition “as it clearly favors a sister company to the prejudice of other free-to-air TV operators," GMA said.
Given this, GMA asked that SkyCable be ordered to explain its actions, barring which a penalty should be imposed.
Representatives of SkyCable were unavailable for comment as this article went online.