Manny Villar, the Philippines' richest individual, has been granted the rights to use the channel 2 frequency previously held by ABS-CBN, regulators said late Wednesday, effectively keeping the broadcaster from its former home on free TV.
Villar's Advanced Media Broadcasting System secured the right to simulcast, or broadcast ast the same time on analog TV channel 2, using its own digital TV channel 16, the National Telecommunications Commission said.
It's a "temporary assignment", the NTC said, meaning AMBS can simulcast on channel 2 until 2023, when all TV broadcasts in the Philippines are required to drop analog in favor of digital.
Lopez-owned ABS-CBN lost the channel 2 frequency after the House of Representatives killed its application for a fresh 25-year franchise in July 2020, despite efforts of network executives to disprove allegations of tax fraud and news bias.
The franchise denial left thousands jobless at the height of the pandemic and shut free TV broadcasts in remote areas that are the source of life-saving information during typhoons.
ABS-CBN has been off air since May 2020 and has been broadcasting mostly on YouTube, Facebook and it's own streaming platform iWant. Some programs air on free TV via A2Z channel 11.
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Villar is the richest Filipino individual with a net worth of $6.7 billion (P343 billion) according to Forbes Magazine. Overall, he is second only to the children of the late shopping mall tycoon Henry Sy, who have a combined net worth of $16.6 billion.
Broadcast will expand the Villar business empire that includes real estate and retail. The tycoon's wife, Cynthia Villar, is an incumbent senator while their son Mark, President Rodrigo Duterte's former public works secretary, is running for the Senate in the May elections.