Fri, 23 Feb 2001

Television association against broadcast bill

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Television Broadcasting Association (ATVSI) dismissed on Thursday the draft broadcast bill being deliberated by the House of Representatives, saying it defied the spirit of reform and restricted press freedom.

"We have given our suggestions to the House of Representatives special committee deliberating the bill, but thus far none of our ideas have been included in the bill," ATVSI chairman Anton A. Nangoy of ANTeve said during a media conference.

Also present at the media conference were Soeastomo Soepardji of Indosiar, who is also ATVSI's secretary-general, and Karni Ilyas and Albert Kuhon of SCTV.

ATVSI groups the country's seven television stations -- TVRI, RCTI, Indosiar, ANTeve, SCTV, TPI and Metro TV.

Anton said the bill would burden broadcast stations with too many responsibilities and threatened them with punishments that were too severe, ranging from fines to jail sentences.

Karni cited as an example Article 25, Paragraph 5, which bans slanderous, provocative and/or deceitful content, content that underscores violence, obscenity, gambling and narcotics, and any content that could incite ethnic, religious and racial conflict.

"If the House approves the bill, I am afraid that covering the ethnic clashes in Sampit, Central Kalimantan, or sectarian riots in Maluku would be considered a crime," Karni said.

Violations of the article carry a maximum sentence of five years in jail and a Rp 20 billion (US$21 million) fine.

"These sanctions are even heavier than the punishments stipulated in the Criminal Code," Karni said.

Article 40 of the bill lays out administrative sanctions, which include revocation of broadcast licenses.

Anton said that while the association could accept the existence of the Indonesian Broadcast Commission (KPI), an independent supervisory and advisory body, ATVSI suggested the power of KPI be reduced.

Article 8 of the draft bill stipulates that KPI has the authority to recommend a broadcast station for a license, impose sanctions in case of violations and establish a code of conduct for the broadcast community.

"We do not yet know who will be named to the commission. But with its vast authority, I think we are in the process of creating a new ministry of information like the one that existed during the New Order.

"Sanctions should be imposed only after hearing the defense of an errant broadcast station or after a court ruling has been issued," Anton said.

In an effort to avoid the monopolization of technology and capital, the bill prohibits the cross-ownership of media enterprises, so an individual cannot own various mass media.

Metro TV and Media Indonesia daily general manager Surya Paloh viewed the restrictions as a major setback.

"We are talking about new information technology in the global era, in which efficiency of market and capital should top the priority list.

"I do not see the centralization of technology and capital creating a conglomeration since mass media enterprises in the country belong to a handful of people," Surya said in a dialog broadcast by SCTV.

Despite his criticism of the broadcast bill, Anton said he expected to meet with the House special committee for discussions.

"I believe the House members will spare us some time and listen to us one more time before approving the bill," Anton said. (02)