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Public broadcaster's fiasco

Tempo - January 31, 2020

Jakarta – The chaos at Republic of Indonesia Television (TVRI) seems to be never-ending. Like a household without a head, everybody at the TV station can do whatever they wish to, including elbowing and tripping others, without repercussion. Reports of internal conflict at the publicly-owned station have never come to an end.

The latest conflict is between the TVRI Supervisory Board and Helmy Yahya, who has just been fired as president director. One of the reasons for this was the US$9 million purchase of the rights to broadcast the English Premier League. In the eyes of the Supervisory Board, this broadcast is not in line with Indonesian national identity. They also questioned Discovery Channel shows, claiming that TVRI aired more pictures of African crocodiles than of Indonesian crocodiles.

This reasoning is ridiculous. The appearance of broadcasts like this can be seen as an initiative for TVRI to attract more viewers, especially since in the last two years, it has performed badly compared to private TV stations. It is no surprise that broadcasts of the English Premier League, which private TV stations had been competing for, is now one of the main attractions on TVRI. As a result, its audience share has increased.

Rather than busying itself with questioning the difficult-to-measure national identity, the Supervisory Board should consider performance. One measure of this is determining Helmy's success in implementing the Annual TVRI Work Plan. This way, the supervisory board would have a more concrete yardstick to measure the performance of TVRI under Helmy – rather than producing contrived excuses.

If there are indications of corruption, the Supervisory Board could report them to the Attorney General's Office or to the police. This would be much more elegant than spreading smears about a person with no evidence. Conversely, Helmy could also be more open when explaining about the charges leveled at him.

This chaos would not have arisen without the dualism between the Supervisory Body and the directors. Government Regulation No. 13/2005 on the TVRI Public Broadcast Body gave the Supervisory Board the authority to participate in day-to-day technical management. Unlike the commissioners in a company, the Supervisory Board also has the right to determine the master plan, broadcasting policy, work plans, and annual budgets.

It is this dualism that needs to be put right. The excessive authority of the Supervisory Board means it can fire directors whenever it likes for reasons that often make no sense. Without a clear delineation of authority between the Supervisory Board and the directors, internal conflicts will continue to arise within the TV station. As well as causing problems for TVRI, this continuous unhealthy rivalry between senior officials will have an adverse effect on the public because it could impact the content of its broadcasts.

This is not the first time that TVRI has become an arena of conflict. Through changing regimes and political currents, the TV station has often become a target for various interests of those with power. For example, TVRI once broadcast the Democrat Party convention without any explanation as to whether this was a paid advertisement or at the request of the party. And TVRI also once broadcast the conference of the Khilafah Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia after a manager secretly asked control room staff to air the event.

The government and the House of Representatives need to end this dualism of authority at TVRI. The public broadcaster must be managed in a way that is transparent and effective. This trend of trying to elbow each other aside must be ended immediately.

Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine: https://magz.tempo.co/read/36344/public-broadcasters-fiasco

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1301941/public-broadcasters-fiasco