Sat, 05 Apr 2003

N. Sumatra TVRI ceases operation

Apriadi Gunawan The Jakarta Post Medan, North Sumatra

State-owned television station TVRI is no longer broadcasting in North Sumatra, marking another suspension of a TVRI station under a restructuring program to slash state funding for TVRI stations nationwide.

"We have had to stop broadcasting entirely since April 2 as all of our operational funds have been exhausted," said Nazief, TVRI's director in the provincial capital Medan. "We don't know when we're back on air."

He said Medan's TVRI station obtained Rp 9 billion (about US$1 million) a year from the central government. The funding problem began in January when Jakarta slashed its funding transfers.

"We get only enough funds to pay for our employees," he said, explaining that salaries amounted to Rp 4 billion a year for the station's around 400 employees in Medan.

Nazief said 70 temporary workers, however, had to be laid off.

A staffer in TVRI's finance division in Medan, Pandapotan Sitanggang, said he continued to come to the office although there was no work to do. "It feels like having lost a job," he said.

In April 2002, the government decided to convert TVRI from a social service corporation to a limited liability company. As a result, TVRI may no longer receive funding from the state budget.

TVRI may obtain funds through the Office of the State Minister of State Enterprises. However, these will only be forthcoming after it has completed the change to a limited liability company.

TVRI is still in the midst of appointing its first board of directors as part of completing the process. But funding from the Ministry of Finance had ceased.

Consequently, several TVRI stations in the provinces, such as in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, Lampung, Bengkulu and Central Kalimantan have been off the air since last October.

Stations in Central Java and West Sumatra are close behind.

Nazief said that TVRI been phasing out its operations in a number of regions in North Sumatra since early March.

Over the past three months, he said, TVRI had been relying on last year's advertising revenue of Rp 600 million to maintain its operations. The money ran out last month.

Now, the television station has debts of Rp 500 million in unpaid telephone, electricity, fuel and other bills, he said.

Last month the provincial government offered to to provide TVRI with Rp 1.1 billion. That money, enough for three months, had yet to be disbursed, Nazief said.