MANILA (Reuters) – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday told owners of a media conglomerate that has drawn his ire to sell the company ahead of the network’s franchise expiry.
The mercurial leader has a rocky relationship with the media, especially with those critical of his bloody anti-narcotics campaign, and he has threatened numerous times to block the franchise extension of ABS-CBN Corp <ABS.PS>.
“This ABS, your contract will expire, and you try to renew. I don’t know what will happen to you,” Duterte said in a speech before earthquake victims in the southern province of North Cotabato.
The broadcast franchise of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest media conglomerate with dozens of local and national radio and television stations covering news, entertainment and public affairs, will expire in March 2020.
“If I were you, just sell it,” Duterte said of the network, which he had accused of not airing his paid advertisement during the presidential race in 2016.
A bill to extend its licence is pending in congress, which is dominated by Duterte’s allies.
ABS-CBN did not immediately respond to request for comment on a public holiday.
Duterte, in numerous public speeches, has lashed out at the media, while his office has at times accused media companies of bias or distorting his statements.
The Philippine leader enjoys a high approval rating and is wildly popular on social media. His supporters, including bloggers, fiercely defend him and his policies, and have targeted journalists.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty and Louise Heavens)