Fri, 11 Apr 2003

'TVRI' resumes broadcasting in North Sumatra

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan, North Sumatra

After being off the air since April 2 due to financial problems, state television TVRI resumed broadcasting in North Sumatra following the disbursement of Rp 1.157 billion by the provincial administration.

Nazief, TVRI's director in Medan, said that the funds would enable the TV station to stay on the air for only three months.

In a bid to keep broadcasting, Medan's TVRI station has offered to air local programs for six regencies in the province in return for financial assistance to cover the station's operating costs.

The six regencies are Natal-Mandailing, South Tapanuli, Dairi, Labuhan Batu, Deli Serdang and Langkat. The TV station will also offer similar opportunities to the other regencies in the province.

"We are offering a one-hour daily program to regencies and municipalities so that they can showcase what they have going for them. In return, TVRI will charge them Rp 12 million a month each," Nazief told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

He predicted that the station would not be able to survive to the end of the year if the regencies rejected the offer.

"We will be able to do nothing unless we secure financial assistance from the regencies. We would have to stop broadcasting again until such time as the central government decided to finance TVRI through the state budget," he said pessimistically.

TVRI's Medan station is supposed to receive Rp 9 billion (about US$1 million) a year from the central government. It currently employs 400 people, while up to 70 part-time employees have been laid off.

Separately, North Sumatra Governor T. Rizal Nurdin told the Post that his administration was considering taking over the Medan station from the central government, but it had yet to obtain permission from the state minister for state enterprises.

"If the central government gives the go-ahead, the station's name will have to be changed," 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 from the Office of the State Minister for State Enterprises. However, these will only be forthcoming after it has been completely converted into a limited liability company.

The funding problem first arose in January when the central government slashed its funding for local TVRI' stations, causing a number of them to be taken off the air under a restructuring program.

In Jakarta, a team set up to bring about the recovery of TVRI recommended that the central government disburse funds for the state-owned TV station's regional units and reorganize its management in order to end internal conflicts and save TVRI from bankruptcy.