The Jakarta Post
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
By Muninggar Sri Saraswati
The cool reception of campaigns ahead of this year’s general election is perplexing, not only for the political parties and contesting politicians, but also for the television stations — which most people draw their knowledge on the elections from.
Agus Sudibyo, a researcher with the Jakarta-based Institute of Studies on Free Flow of Information (ISAI), said television programs failed to live up to the challenge as they lacked an agenda on how they could best be involved in the elections.
“It’s a common tendency for our television journalists. They just go with the flow and, thus, are inadequate in their participation in the country’s democratization process,” he said on Tuesday.
Current television coverage of the campaign, he said, only focused on festivities rather than politics.
ISAI’s recent study of television coverage of the campaign from March 11 to 19 March, revealed that more than 50 percent of news from 10 stations concerned the installation of parties’ flags, convoys, or dangdut music performances held by parties across the country.
An earlier study by ISAI showed that more than 55 percent of eligible voters looked to television for information on this year’s elections, some 20 percent to the radio, seven percent to newspapers, and the rest directly to leading members of society.
Agus said that an explanation of how to vote, or the controversy over ballot boxes and ballot papers, were far more newsworthy issues.
He regretted that television stations failed to play their roles in educating voters in this year’s general election — in which a new system for the election of legislative candidates at national, provincial, regental and municipal level, has been introduced — as well as the election of the president.
Television stations, Agus said, could draw comparisons by referring to the rich resources that were available to them (in terms of information) on the 1999 elections.
They could compare the promises made by certain parties now and then, he said, by way of an example. “This would serve to remind voters, so they would not be easily fooled by politicians,” he said.
Bimo Nugroho of the new Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) commented on the feedback of journalists who claimed that when they attended campaigns they were usually met with lighthearted entertainment rather than politicians discussing their parties’ platforms.
Despite such shortcomings, Agus said that television stations had become more independent since 1999, when the country held its first democratic elections after the end of the authoritarian New Order regime. The exception, he claimed, was Metro TV, owned by media tycoon Surya Paloh, who will also participate in Golkar Party’s convention to decide upon its presidential candidate.
The General Elections Commission (KPU), following a recommendation by KPI, issued on Tuesday a letter reprimanding Metro TV and requesting that it provide “fair” coverage of other political parties and presidential aspirants.
“In 1999, it was obvious that some of the television stations were partisan,” Agus said.
Date Posted: 3/24/2004