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JAKARTA - The new autonomy law introduced last year immediately encouraged many Indonesians to set up television stations in remote cities far away from the bustling capital, where the current nationwide stations dominate the landscape of free-TV.
Broadcast Law No. 24 issued in 1997, which said permits for broadcast frequencies were under the authority of the ministry of information, remains ineffective because the ministry was disbanded in 1999.
Furthermore, according to Hinca Pandjaitan from nongovernmental organization Media Law and Policy Center, there will be no more new licenses issued for nationwide television stations because under the autonomy law, as far as permits are concerned, the ball is now in the court of the local government.
"It's true that there's confusion because several local governments are not aware of this situation and instead they direct businesspeople seeking permits to the transportation ministry," Pandjaitan, who is also a media law ombudsperson, said.
That situation has triggered the setting up of several local television stations, which cater for limited regional viewerships.
One of the new local television stations, JTV, a subsidiary of one of the largest media groups, Jawa Pos, made its maiden broadcast in November last year in Surabaya, East Java.
The Jawa Pos group has earmarked US$1.5 million for the station, whose launch date on Nov. 10 coincided with national Heroes Day. The celebration of that day commemorates the patriotic war during the struggle against the Dutch in 1945 in Surabaya, later known locally as the City of Heroes.
With a "footprint" limited to East Java only, the station now transmits for an average of 7.5 hours daily, with a disappointing performance. After being on the air for five months, none of its programs has gained any rating points at all, including its Sunday prime time Ketawa Ala Kartolo (a comedy featuring Surabaya's most well-known traditional opera, or Ludruk stage performer, Kartolo). Using data from research firm AC Nielsen, and in the words of a layman, it can be said no one watches JTV programs.
But that fact has not discouraged other provinces from running their own television stations. The Jawa Pos subsidiary, Riau Pos Media, introduced Riau-TV in the oil-rich province of Riau, near Singapore, to add to the choice of Jakarta-based terrestrial stations and an existing local station, Pekanbaru TV, which went on air a year earlier.
"RTV was set up in response to the Vision Riau 2020, which is to make Riau a Malay cultural development center," said Riau Pos Media Group CEO Rida Liamsi. Pekanbaru, the provincial capital of Riau, also hosts the headquarters of oil firm Caltex, which already subscribes to one pay-tv service.
Unlike nationwide free-TV stations, which spend millions of dollars on programming acquisitions, these stations are not really concerned about program content. What is more important to them is to get their signal on the air.
In the South Kalimantan town of Hulu Sungai Utara, the local government set up early in May a television station under a brand name Amuntai TV (AMteve). It broadcasts local TV programs for one hour per day, twice a week. The station's main function is to relay the transmissions of four terrestrial stations RCTI, SCTV, Indosiar and TPI which were previously accessible only via a satellite dish.
"The broadcast time is flexible. If the regency head (bupati) is not home yet, we delay the broadcast," said AMteve operations director Nuralim Priswantara, who also serves as a cameraman, floor director and technician simultaneously. Sometimes there are not even commercial considerations. Having a population of only two million relatively primitive people, mostly in less well-developed areas, the Indonesian easternmost province of Papua, formerly Irian Jaya, has also launched its own local television station Televisi Papua Indonesia Network (TPIN).
For a 30-minute broadcast, the station needs an average of Rp 70 million. And for 30-minute? commercial broadcast, it must provide Rp 100 to Rp 150 million. There is no possible way of making money, considering the size of the local economy. But yet, it plans to run for 24 hours per day, said TPIN president director Yesaya C. Santoso, while refusing to elaborate on the source of his financial backup.
While in Makassar (formerly Ujung Pandang), a firm -- PT Makassar Lintasvisual Cemerlang -- expects its newly established station Makassar-TV to be on the air in June this year for a five-month trial period. President director Andrey Arief Bulu said the firm had earmarked Rp 5 billion ($500,000) for the setting up of the station, which relies 70 percent on local content. There are no immediate details available of what the local content will be about.
But certainly, some businesspeople see a light at the end of the tunnel. For example, Nurcholis, from a sleepy little town, Banyuwangi, at the eastern tip of Java. Having a technical background, a spirit of entrepreneurship and armed with a VHS handycam, Nurcholis has set up his own station Escape Television. Running on VHF frequency and without a formal license, Escape Television has served viewers in Srono district for about five hours per day since July 2000. The content? Whatever is happening in the community, from a live wedding party to song requests to a pigeon-flying contest. Nurcholis makes millions of rupiah from his service every month.

So, who wants to be a millionaire?

Posted in Culture @ 16 March 2002 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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