Indonesian Broadcasting Law And Its Problems of Implementation

By Sirikit Syah, Indonesia


After 28 years of TVRI (Government TV) domination, in 1989 Indonesia had a private TV channel (RCTI), followed by SCTV, and in 15 years until now, other 9 private TV channels have been growing. They all air nation-widely. So, in many provinces throughout Indonesia, like East Java for instance, people have access to 12 national channels freely: TVRI, RCTI, SCTV, Anteve, Indosiar, Lativi, TPI, Trans TV, TV7, Global TV, Metro TV, JTV. The freedom for the press and broadcasting are there.

Indonesian TV viewers are among the most advantaged in the world. In liberal countries like UK and the US, there are not more than 5 national channels. Other channels (in the US, this could mean hundreds of channels) will have to reach audience via cable. It means, you have to pay if you want to view it. So, while in the US popular programs like Friends, Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, and MTV video clips are not free, in Indonesia, people throughout the country can enjoy it (or get mad of it). So, for 15 years, big media corporations enjoy the freedom to air nationwide and get high incomes from the advertisements.

Are they really free? In the early 90s, Bimantara , who owned RCTI and SCTV, intervened newsroom decisions of what to air and what must not. TPI, owned by Siti Hardiyanti or Mbak Tutut , betrayed its slogan to be “Educational Television” because it aired too much entertainments. All three (plus SCTV) of these so-called private TVs aired “yellow colour” political coverage, even more yellow than TVRI, the formal Government TV.

The Birth of Broadcasting Law

Drafted during Presiden Gus Dur and signed by Presiden Megawati, in 2002, the Broadcasting Law (Nr 32/2002) was issued. It was protested by TV Association (ATVSI) right away. The industry, including TV workers and artists, demonstrated to the Senate (DPR RI), and campaigned through their screens in the forms of PSA, which looked more like propaganda. They misled the public with a ‘false’ fear that “the freedom of the press is dead”. They mis-educated the public (the viewers) with an understanding that the Broadcasting Law kills the public freedom to get information and entertainment.

In fact, the Law has the spirit of democracy and decentralization. It gives opportunities to every region (province, city) to have local independent television institutions. Indeed, it cuts the long-held privilege of natioanl TVs to air directly to the regions. Under the new Law, they can reach their audience in the regions only by affiliating with local TVs. It is obviously disadvantaging them. Before the existence of the Broadcast Law, national TV stations pocket all the advertisement money. Now, they have to negotiate and cooperate with local TVs abut the share of the advertisement revenues. There are now about 80 local TVs throughout Indonesia, the era for dominant national TVs will be over with the implementation of the Broadcasting Law. In short, it is not the public who will be disadvantaged by the Law, but the national TV industry.

ATVSI with several other organizations concerned with broadcast issues appealed to the Constitution court to review the Law, especially on articles concerning the establishment and authority of Indonesian Broadcasting Commission. A few of their appeals have been granted. One of them is that the Regulation (under the Law) of Broadcasting Industry will be issued by the government (Information Department), not by the Commission (KPI= Komisi Penyiaran Indonesia). This monopoly by the government later creates a fierce debate, particularly when the Broadcast Regulation (Peraturan Pemerintah) issued by the government contains several articles, which are contradict or unaccordance with the Broadcasting Law.

Besides giving authority to newly-introduced independent regulatory body namely KPI, the Broadcasting Law also says that two years after the launch of the Law, meaning in 2004, radio stations throughout Indonesia should have been regulated and organized. One year afterwards, in the end of 2005, TV stations should have been regulated and organized. To do such a hard work –since broadcasting industry in Indonesia was like a wild jungle – is the job of KPI.

Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI)

In 2003, one year after the launch of the dcastingw, the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (Komisi Penyiaran Indonesia), an independent state body, was established in the capital city (Jakarta). It was followed by the establishments of KPID (regional KPI) in 19 provinces. At national level, KPI consists of 9 members,and at provincial level, KPID consists of 7 members. They are elected through a very selective process (including fit & propper test) by members of DPR (DPRD at provincial level).
According to the Law, their function and role include:
a. setting the Broadcast Code of Conduct and Broadcast Standards,
b. monitoring and giving guidance for broadcast programming,
c. giving sanctions for violations,
d. issuing and withdrawing broadcast license.

The industry, fearing the end of their glory, is persistently against this new entity. The association of TVs (ATVSI) then appealed to the Court of Cnstitution for a Judicial Review. It shows that the industry is in favor of the government to regulate them than if they are to be regulated by ‘unknown, newly established’ institution. The question is why they are not happy to be regulated by an independent and democratically-selected body? Is it because they get along very well –based on experience- with the government, and feel ‘blind’ with the new regulator? Some KPI/D members can’t be bought. But some others may charge them with unpredictable and inconsistent amount of money. Both –for the good or bad- are difficult for the industry.

Code of Conduct and Broadcast Standard

In August 2004, KPI (the Commission) –after getting inputs from public forums throughout Indonesia – then launched its Code of Conduct and Broadcast Standard in Indonesian it is called Pedoman Perilaku Penyiaran dan Standar Program Siarana, abbreviated as P3-SPS). As expected, TV association is reluctant to obey, saying that they have already had their own ethics & standards. Despite the TVs reluctance, this first code of its kind are widely accepted by the public, who have been waiting for somebody, some entity, to watch and regulate TV and radio programming. The socialization of the Broadcast Conducts & Standards are done by KPID (the regional Commissions authorized to operate in provincial level) in each province, which covers dozens of cities.

Highlights of the Codes of Conduct and Broadcast Standard

The Broadcast Conducts and Standards (P3-SPS) consists of 82 articles, with a strong emphasize on ‘obscenety & indecency’ (11 articles on sex-related conducts alone). It is not perfect, but there are some highlights of the conduct/standard that need to be recognized:

Article 21 on “Hidden Recording/Shooting”

According to this article, hidden recording/shooting is allowed only if it involves public interest, recorded/shot in public places, does not violate privacy of any citizen, cannot be brodacsted live. This is a positive step after cases of “hidden camera/microphone acts”, which violate public privacies.

Article 31 on “Taste and Decency”

Program must bare in mind not to create negative impacts, disadvantage, attack, or offend the values behold by a diversity of groups in the society.

Article 52 on “Bad Words”

Programs are forbidden to use language/words, which tend to humiliate and undermine humanbeings, God and religions; nor have obscene/vulgar meanings, in Indonesian, foreign, or local languages.

Problems of Implementing the Law

a. Reluctance of decentralized broadcasting among broadcasting industry.
The Law authorizes KPI to process licensing. In provinces, it is the job of KPID. But there is an “exagerated” fear, that decentralization would only mean more difficulties in licensing process. The broadcasting institutions are quite happy with ‘old-fashioned-via-central-government” process. For them also, programming would be simpler nation-wide. The industry is not ready with local-content programming

b. Refusal/Judicial Review by ATVSI
ATVSI is a very influential organization. All private national TVs are members of this organization. Owners of TV stations include Aburizal Bakrie –cabinet minister (Anteve), Surya Paloh –Golkar leader (Metro), Abdul Latief –former minister (Lativi), and Soeharto’s cronies. If the Law is applied, they all must cooperate with local institutions regarding the relaying/broadcasting of their programs. In business term, it means revenue sharing.

c. The Power of Ministery of Information (Yes, it comes back)
President Yudoyono’s cabinet includes Ministery/Department of Communication and Information . This department has been in constnat battle with KPI regarding authority to regulate broadcast industry. Supported by the broadcasting industry and the court of constitution decision, it has just issued Broadcast Regulation, which undermines the role of KPI and gives back the licensing authority to the government.
Besides the issue of licensing, the new Broadcast Regulation (Peraturan Pemerintah tentang Penyiaran) also forbids foreign newscasts. VOA, BBC, and other foreign news program will no longer be broadcasted in Indoensian television.

d. Lack of supports from local government to KPI-D
Local governments are supposed to finance the operation of KPI-D, but there is no adequate budget to work according to required targets.

e. Lack of capability and integrity among KPI-D members
Democratically-selected members of KPI/D do not guarantee the best people in such a powerful and crucial positions. Many are not experienced nor capable of handling such big problem. Some are even easily corrupted by the capitalists and/or the government’s interests.
2006 Outlook

The future of broadcasting in Indonesia is still not clear, despite the existence of Broadcasting Law and Broadcasting Commission. The threats towards democratization of broadcasting in Indonesia are obvious: the return of the Information Department, who will take control of the broadcast media; the strong-capitalistic-ideology of broadcasting industry owners, who will dominate the national-taste programming; lack of law enforcement towards violators (broadcasting without licences, for instance); public ignorance, local-government lack of support towards KPI-D in their regions; and the lost of trust among local broadcast industry toward KPI-D (due to lack of integrity, capability, and a tendency of corrupt behaviour, which make them prefer the government thatn KPI/D to regulate them).

The deadline stated by the Broadcasting Law for radio stations to be well-governed in 2004 has passed and nothing changes. The deadline for television is in December 2005, but the players become wilder. Several TV stations are already broadcasting, using public sphere of air frequency, witouht any license. Many radio brodcasts are crashing in the air. The constant battle of Information Department and KPI fuels the unlawful aggressiveness to air among new broadcast institutions in Indonesia.

End of article


Perihal LKM Media Watch
Mass media are watchdogs. But who watch the media? Let's do it together. Watch this very powerful entity, for better journalism, better Indonesia, better world.

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