National News – February 12, 2008
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) is asking the government to ensure that the public’s right to diverse television programs be fulfilled.
The commission said coverage like that of former president Soeharto’s recent death, in which the public was overwhelmed by mass media across the country with boring stories of the erstwhile strongman, should not be repeated in the future.
KPI member Don Bosco Salamun said the media coverage of Soeharto was over the limit, causing the public to have little choice in receiving balanced information.
“All national TV stations broadcast the same news on Soeharto’s death over and over again, without considering that the transmission frequency belongs to the public and that the public has the right to get balanced information,” he told a discussion here Monday.
Don Bosco said the “overdose” coverage succeeded in creating a positive image of Soeharto, in contrast to how media performed during the beginning of the reform era in 1999.
“The government should push all the TV stations to serve the public with diverse programming content, despite its decision to extend the deadline for the implementation of the TV networking system,” he said.
He was referring to the extended implementation of the 2002 law on broadcasting that requires national TV stations to establish a networking system with local ones.
The deadline was extended from Dec. 28 last year to Dec. 28, 2009.
Under the law, TV stations must broadcast local programs in addition to their regular programming, and allow for a “diversity of ownership”, in which national TV stations must sell shares in their relay stations to local TV stations.
“The government could extend the implementation of the “diversity of ownership”, as it requires further technical regulations, but the idea of “diversity of content” should be carried out soon,” Don Bosco said.
Many critics have blamed the “overdose” coverage of Soeharto’s death on the fact that most television outlets were still under control by his cronies.
Agus Sudibyo of the Coalition of Public Information Freedom said most of the country’s TV stations were indebted to Soeharto.
“The Indonesian television industry started during the Soeharto era, and its owners owed a lot to him for their successes,” he said.
“But high ratings were also behind the massive programming, as well as the allegation that the TV stations are indirectly owned by Soeharto’s family,” he added.
Agus said it was the media’s right to “exaggerate” news on a figure like Soeharto, but it should have been limited to its editorial programs.
“Editorial programs are the media’s private spaces, while news programs and talk shows are public spaces in which the people have the right to select a variety of information, not only a single type of news,” he said.
“While not all of Soeharto’s businesses are important for the public, issues like disasters, corruption and human rights violations have great significance for them,” he added.
Cici, a resident of Aceh province, said she was fed up with watching news of Soeharto on television for more than two weeks.
“I didn’t get the importance of that (news) for people in Aceh. I didn’t have other choices when all I wanted was to get an update of the floods in regions like Bojonegoro (in East Java),” she said. (dia)