Thu, 25 Aug 1994

Local TV networks told to reduce foreign programs

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Information Harmoko yesterday urged all local television networks to cut down on the number of foreign programs and to promote local products.

In a speech during a thanksgiving ceremony to mark the 32nd anniversary of the state-owned TVRI, Harmoko warned that the government would not hesitate to punish networks which failed to promote domestic programs.

Besides the foreign television programs, the criticism was also leveled at the brief video clips of pop and rock songs which are aired by virtually all the five networks to fill in the commercial time.

Harmoko said the broadcasting companies must be more selective in choosing the foreign programs, taking into account the national interests. Broadcasters should not simply be motivated by profit, he added.

His remarks lent credence to the growing criticisms over the past year of the increasing domination of foreign programs on Indonesian television networks. Critics were concerned about the cultural intrusion as well as the increasing amount of sex and violence portrayed in many of these programs.

The deregulation of the television industry in 1989 has spawned stiff competition for audiences and also for advertising revenues. Four private networks have been established since then -- RCTI, TPI, SCTV, and ANteve -- to compete with TVRI, now no longer enjoying the monopoly it once had. A fifth network, Indosiar Visual Mandiri, plans to start broadcasting next month.

Harmoko said that the television networks have a responsibility to promote national stability.

Programs which could potentially lead to unrest should be scrapped, he said without mentioning any particular program.

Failure to select programs which are not in accordance with national values could lead to break-ups, he said.

He said the networks should be more sensitive in selecting their programs and understand the audience's limit of tolerance.

The era of openness should not be interpreted as freedom to present programs at will, he added.

He said the networks must not let Indonesia become the "waste basket" for the West's culture.

Specifically for TVRI, Harmoko said the network which has the largest scope compared to the private networks, also has a duty to promote the Indonesian language.

The state-owned network should ban programs which do not use Bahasa Indonesia correctly.

Television should be seen also as a tool for education and not simply for entertainment, he added.

TVRI director Azis Husein said in his report that the network can now reach nearly 80 percent of Indonesia's 180 million people with the support of 12 broadcasting stations, one production station, eight mobile stations and 329 transmission units.

He said that 14 new transmission stations would be built in the coming year.

TVRI's prime source of revenue is still the television fees collected annually from TV owners. The network also receives royalties from all the private networks.

Meanwhile, RCTI president director A. Rallie Siregar, who attended the ceremony, told reporters that the network's plan to go public is now going full steam.

The Capital Market Supervisory Board is currently studying the financial position of RCTI, he explained. "One of the reasons to go public is to purchase the equipment for the studios," he added.

Director General of Radio, Television and Film Alex Leo Zulkarnain said the Ministry of Information is also studying RCTI's plan to go public, and its main concern is to ensure that the network's shares do not fall into foreign hands.

The media industry is one of the few sectors that are still closed to foreign investors. (par)