Wed, 31 Aug 1994

ASEAN countries plan to produce own TV programs

BATAM, Riau (JP): Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plan to produce their own television programs as a way of countering the cultural intrusion through TV programs supplied from the West, Minister of Information Harmoko disclosed yesterday.

"We reached the informal agreement last year," Harmoko said referring to the meeting of ASEAN's information ministers in Manila.

Harmoko was speaking at the inauguration of the new relay station jointly owned by Indonesia's private RCTI and SCTV networks in Batam. With the new station, the two networks can now be received not only in Batam, but also in Singapore and parts of Malaysia's southern peninsula.

Also present at the ceremony held at the office of the Batam Industrial Development Authority were Malaysian Information Minister Dato H. Moch. Rachmat, Singapore's ambassador to Indonesia Edward Lee and Riau Governor Suripto.

Rachmat referred to the threat of cultural contamination as the main reason why ASEAN needs to produce its own television programs.

Harmoko said that if ASEAN governments can formally agree to the idea by next year, ASEAN members will not have any problem with infrastructure because they could use Indonesia's Palapa communications satellite to beam the programs region-wide.

ASEAN norms

He noted that Malaysia is expected to allow its citizens to own satellite dishes by 1996 that will pick up programs from Indonesia.

Harmoko said ASEAN countries have agreed to formulate a set of "norms" and codes of ethics on information that are deemed appropriate for dissemination.

Rachmat said that Malaysia's decision to cut a BBC television program on the workers' riots in Medan, North Sumatra, last April was made as a gesture of ASEAN solidarity.

"The BBC was angry and the contract was cut," Rachmat said. "But never mind," he added.

"We will have a controlled open sky policy," Harmoko added.

The two ministers agreed that the private sector should manage and operate the "ASEAN television" while the governments would provide the guidelines.

Both ministers anticipated language problems in running an ASEAN television station and suggested using a variety of languages in the same way that Malaysian and Singaporean networks are doing now as a way out.

SCTV vice commissioner Sudwikatmono, who was present at the ceremony, said, however, that he is not interested yet in joining such a venture.

"We've just reached our break-even point," he said, adding that television is a high risk industry. (anr)