Thu, 29 May 2003

the figure needs to be checked. Is this total debt or just to PLN?

Ardimas Sasdi Staff Writer The Jakarta Post Jakarta

State-owned television company TVRI is in the news again, but this time not in a positive light.

Recent media reports say that TVRI, especially its branches in several provinces, are facing serious financial problems, and that some have even gone off air.

TVRI owes various agencies, including Rp 392 billion to state electricity company (PT PLN), which accumulated from unpaid fees from 2000 to 2003 (Kompas, May 23).

The news comes on the heels of the government's program to restructure the broadcaster, which has been embroiled in serious financial problems, internal conflicts and alleged practices of corruption and mismanagement. In the restructuring, which followed a long bureaucratic process heavily tainted by the vested interests of big political parties, the government changed the status of TVRI from a perjan (a state company financially dependent but allowed to carry ads) into a limited liability company, which critics say contravenes Broadcasting Law No. 32 of 2002. The government also replaced members of its board of directors and commissioners in April.

The appointment of new president director Hari Sulistyono, a former executive of the defunct Lippostar news portal owned by the Lippo Group, and Enny A. Hardjanto, a former executive of Citibank, as news and programs director, a position that requires broad experience, sparked allegations of cronyism due to their close links to State Minister of State Enterprises Laksamana Sukardi.

The controversy surrounding the TVRI shakeup was compounded by the appointment of Golkar party secretary general Lt. Gen. (ret) Budi Harsono as a commissioner. Critics said the ruling Indonesian Democratic of Struggle, chaired by President Megawati Soekarnoputri, and Golkar deliberately orchestrated the reshuffle to benefit them in the 2004 elections. Television is expected to be the main way political parties attract voters, as was the case in the 1999 election campaign.

TVRI has been operating since its founding in 1963, which coincided with the fourth Asian Games in Jakarta, and is still the biggest television station in the country in terms of coverage, thanks to its 23 stations and 395 transmitters spread from the westernmost province of Aceh to the easternmost province of Papua. In 2002 TVRI received a budget of Rp 150 billion, of which Rp 70 billion was used to pay salaries and the remainder to cover operations and maintenance costs.

The new TVRI management have not yet unveiled their plans on the future direction of TVRI, but it must be to take concrete steps to tackle the financial problems.

A light has risen at the end of the tunnel. State Minister of Communications and Information Syamsul Muarif said during a hearing with the House of Representatives on Monday that the government would continue to support TVRI financially during the transition period.

However, in the long run,TVRI management must finance the operations of the company sustainably and, if possible, improve the pay of their low-paid employees. TVRI must forget the past and face the fact that rivalry from private television stations throughout Indonesia is intense.

One of the key elements to winning this race is to get the wholehearted support of its employees. It is also high time for TVRI to review its mission, vision and adjust its planning on human resource development (HRD) with the new goals starting from the process of recruitment to training and promotion. The first step to do this is to conduct a thorough organizational audit, either done by TVRI internal team or a professional management consulting firm.

The results of the audit is needed by TVRI management to design a blue print, including its business strategy and HRD policy. TVRI management must continue with the restructuring even if the audit requires them to take bold, unpopular measures such as downsizing the number of employees. On the other hand TVRI employees are expected to shift their mindset, saying goodbye to the habits of civil servant, who are notorious for low productivity and a lack of initiative.

Article 13 Subarticle 2 of Broadcasting Law No. 32/2002, which came into effect last December, divides the broadcasting firms into four main categories: public broadcasting (TVRI and Radio Indonesia {RRI}), private broadcasting, community broadcasting and cable TV.

The law states that the source of TVRI's income as a public broadcasting company consists of: Subscription fees from owners of TV sets; government budget; donations from the public; ads; and other lawful means related to broadcasting activities.

As a state institution with more than 40 years experience, TVRI is indeed not that bad judging from the ownership of stations, transmitters, a training center, a nature studio, number of trained employees and its size in terms of coverage.

But the challenges faced by TVRI are also huge. First, the company should explore all available financial resources to become self-reliant amid the government plan to reduce subsidies. Second, TVRI should create a working atmosphere that allows employees to reach their full potential and be creative in order to achieve goals crafted in the restructuring programs. A failure to reform will cost TVRI dearly with more and more of its best reporters, cameramen and technicians moving to private stations, which can pay them more and provide a more challenging career.

At this juncture -- to survive and grow into a modern organization or buckle -- the fate of TVRI largely depends on the ongoing restructuring process, but whatever the form of reorganization its management chooses, the overhaul must be thorough and not just a facelift.