CORRUPTION AT THE NATIONAL TELECOM COMMISSION

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CORRUPTION AT THE NATIONAL TELECOM COMMISSION

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cartoon editorialTHERE IS A GLARING CORRUPTION going on at the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) usually during election years like this year.

Illegal radio stations, mostly FM, operate even without the necessary permits or what they call as Provincial Authority to Operate (PA). What is surprising to note is how these illegal radio stations get their temporary permits from the NTC.

It seems just  a breeze to open FM stations akin to just  opening  mere sari-sari stores where they just start to go “on air” even without the necessary formal permits from NTC. And as  if it’s not enough to have no NTC papers, they operate even without the  required Mayor’s Permit from the respective localities where they are broadcasting.

What is commonly happening during election year is that unscrupulous people at the NTC  behind this racket are  issuing temporary permits to radio stations bound to operate before the campaign period with the purpose of being used as a campaign arm of some politicians.

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This happened in Bohol during the last election in 2013. Its mushrooming not just in Bohol but in other provinces.

One point in question is the operation of several FM stations using the same frequency as 102.3FM, a sister company of this paper popularly known as Kiss FM. One  such illegal “frequency clone” was found out to be operating in nearby Valencia , Negros which accordingly NTC has ordered to stop operating. However since December until this time, the FM continues to operate.   Adding color to the issue is yet another 102.3FM in Ubay town. Surprise of all surprises how in heaven’s name were they able to get the frequency when there is a long -running 102.3 FM in this capital city-operating since 1990?

More proof?   Still another 102.3FM is  also operating wide and loud somewhere  out in  Moalboal , Cebu province . Because of this-  the public who has been used to hear Kiss FM en route to its being a No. 1 FM station in Bohol  is being prejudiced  by the noise and  interfering broadcast stations on the same frequency.

Let’s be frank – this cannot happen if there are no  corrupt guys inside NTC who are operating the racket.  Even if the radio stations’  lives might be short-lived as they are as relevant only for election purposes, the greedy operators already made money fleecing advertisers or illegally advancing the interest of their politician -backers, placing their political foes at an undue advantage. Is that fair? Is that democratic?

Operating an illegal radio station is like driving without a driver’s license. A driver’s license is issued only to individuals who have the know how and character to run a vehicle responsibly. That’s why there are driver’s tests, drug tests  and emission tests. An illegal station operator wants to do away with all that.

Extending the transportation parallelism further, it is akin to a taxi operator who runs his taxis in areas he does not have a franchise over- a territorial violation.

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Owning a radio franchise is not as easy as filing a firm under the Department of Trade and Industry for a single proprietorship  and the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission ) for corporations. It needs a Congressional franchise because media is intrinsic during times of disasters and when national security is threatened.

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It is so crucial to national well-being that up to this day- media continues to be an industry that is not allowed to be controlled by foreigners.

So stringent are the requirements to this broadcasting privilege that a “surety bond” is required by the Department of Transportation and Communication to ensure that in the first three years, the grantee is able to perform satisfactory to the tenets of sound broadcasting -after which a longer-term franchise is approved for say 25 years or more.

Section 7 of the pertinent law disallows the grantee to operate the station until the DOTC through the NTC has granted the frequency and the wave length to utilize. So why does 102.3 seem to have four competing stations- two  from Bohol,  and one each  in Negros and Cebu?

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Section 6 is clear that the right to actually operate comes ONLY AFTER six months following the formal approval of the franchise.  Upon what legal grounds, therefore,  do these illegal stations operate? Can we continue to operate an industry out of bounds of the rule of law? Then what kind of playing field do we have?

However, what  happened in December last year could be instructive.

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Because someone complained, the Ombudsman filed graft and corruption charges versus  Ismael Cabural , regional director of the NTC based in Koronadal City for “illegally granting a special permit” to operate to  a  radio station in Tangurakan, Cotabato in 2013.

Allegedly P550,000 in dirty money  changed hands to have the station operate. The NTC said the “radio station was illegally operating and Cabral did not have authority to issue a permit to operate.”

If the DOTC, under which the NTC operates, is serious about cleaning this part of its huge stable, it should start kicking ass and cases be filed one after the other against these violators.

On the side, the charges should also include the illegal operators who by slight of hand and usually with the grease of dirty money -illegally enrich themselves at the expense of legitimate radio stations, political rivals  and to the prejudice to the listening public.

Calling  on the DOTC, yes, but does the DOTC ever listen when it comes to complaints against people of the same clothe as they have? Just asking, Watson.

For comments: email to dejarescobingo@yahoo.com or bohol-rd@mozcom.com

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