JAKARTA (JP): Every month a new type of cellular phone is released to the public. The latest would be the one with an attachable digital camera. We are getting closer and closer to the next generation: 3G. When the world talks about new technology, we join the crowd. While they have a good plan, a solid infrastructure and the “”what next”” vision, we, unfortunately, do not have these things. Not yet.
We must hurry to catch up before digital convergence reaches its peak, but unfortunately we have less to start with. Similar in nature to the United States’ 1996 Telecommunications Act would be our Broadcast Law No. 24/1997, which has been sitting in the legislature for some time.
There is no discussion of possible technological advances there, not even a vision. The subject of discussion and debate is more similar to what was settled 100 years ago in the U.S. Here are some of the issues:
First, the Indonesia Broadcasting Commission (KPI). KPI may likely resemble the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States. However, the KPI will not, or must not, have the same authority as the FCC.
Some of the FCC’s tasks were outlined in Section 303 of the Communications Act of 1934, which led to the birth of the FCC: “”(T)o classify [radio] stations and prescribe services, assign frequencies and power, approve equipment and mandate standards for levels of interference, make regulations for stations with network affiliations, prescribe qualifications for station owners and operators, levy fines and forfeitures and issue cease and desist orders.””
Additional comprehensive tasks were added as new technologies appeared — television, satellite and microwave communication, cable TV, cellular phones, wireless applications and the Internet.
In Indonesia, the KPI’s powers will be limited. The House of Representatives has suggested that frequency allocation should go to the KPI, but the government, in this case the ministry of communications and information, did not agree to this. Until now, frequency spectrum allocation has been under the Ministry of Transportation, which is also concerned with frequencies for transportation.
It is tough to decide who gets what frequency in what location. Indonesia already has 10 private TV stations (RCTI, SCTV, TPI, ANteve,Indosiar, Metro TV, TV7, Lativi, TransTV, and TV-G), and one government-owned station (TVRI). All the stations have gone national, and already reach more than 50 percent of all areas.
More repeat stations will be established in the years to come, and, if possible, new licenses will be issued for more TV stations.
However, if the KPI cannot “”assign frequencies and power”” for stations (radio or TV), how will they perform? Technological advancements in broadcasting and telecommunications are moving faster than ever. In other parts of the world, the digital compression has eased off allocations. Has the government foreseen this?
The Indonesian TV industry is different from the U.S. model. We don’t have network stations with their affiliated stations, nor independent stations. There are no cable networks with multiple channels. The TV network business model in the U.S. was rooted from the radio network, where one network can have several affiliated stations in different cities all over the country.
The FCC’s first and main task was frequency allocation for radio stations. When noncommercial organizations, such as churches and schools, pleaded to establish stations they were unable to get a frequency because most were granted to commercial stations.
Not until 1945 did the FCC clearly define frequencies for educational and nonprofit stations: 88 MHz to 92 MHz. Allocation for television was another drawn-out, conflicted issue.
Established on June 11, 1934, the FCC, whose members were appointed by the President and approved by the Congress, had to decide whether licenses could be passed to network or local stations.
Similarly, in Indonesia the government cannot decide whether allocations should be national or local. The spirit of Indonesian Law No. 22/1999 on provincial autonomy has supported frequency allocation at the provincial level.
On the other hand, the ministries of transportation and information still want to regulate it at the national level. Unfortunately, this means that provincial or community television could be limited or even banned — if it interferes in national TV frequencies.
The case of East Java’s JTV has proven this; one of its transmitting towers was shut down by the police due to interference with Indosiar.
And regarding community or public television, say goodbye to public TV. Instead welcome a new hybrid station: TVRI. State-owned but commercial television has given way to public TV, which was a title that TVRI once saw as a burden.
Many applauded the effort by Sumita Tobing, TVRI‘s president director, to make this change, while many others condemned it. Now, we must redefine the business model of public TV.
In the U.S. and many developed countries, public TV is fully funded by the government and appreciative contributors, and there are no commercials between programs. Unfortunately, TVRI has to support too many employees spread across the country, and has less money for good programs.
On the contrary, community TV, broadcasting locally or provincially, has bloomed everywhere. From the campus (Ganesha TV, ITB, Bandung) to corporate offices (Caltex, Kalimantan Timur) to JTV (East Java province), most of them are able to finance their own programs, even for one to two-hour broadcast operations. The problem arises when they use up the frequency, but only if they are not using cable for distribution.
Both public and community television station should clearly “”characterize”” the public and community they represent. The new broadcast law must consider them, not “”terminate”” them. What would happen if all mass media went commercial? The government provides no room for education and knowledge, again?
Then there are the overlooked issues. Many issues could hit the deck in time. Sex and violence must be supervised, while home taping could be copyright infringement. Overexposed children, program-length commercials, abuse of language, court TV, digital transition and convergence could be left out. Broadcast Law No. 24/1997 must clearly define and regulate these things beforehand, not afterward in the form of amendments.
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Thu, 08/01/2002 7:29 AM | Opinion