Private television stations RCTI and iNews TV have recently come under fire for submitting a petition to the Constitutional Court calling for a judicial review of the Broadcasting Law to establish a "level playing field" for both broadcasting media and over-the-top (OTT) digital content and service providers.
The petition was promptly met with resistance from the public and government officials alike amid concerns over a media monopoly that could potentially result in severely limited access to digital content and services.
The petition argued that Article 1 of the Broadcasting Law – which defines broadcasting as information transmission via radio frequency through the air, cable and other media – suggested there was "discrimination" against broadcasting media as OTT companies that distribute digital content and services through the internet remain relatively unregulated.
According to the petition, a redefinition of broadcast media is required so that digital content and service providers may become subject to the same law that binds traditional media.
The Communications and Information Ministry's informatics director general, Ahmad M. Ramli, rebutted the claim, saying that OTT companies belonged to a different legal domain under the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law, the Pornography Law and a number of other regulations concerning digitally transmitted content.
Furthermore, he said the petition implied a host of legal consequences that could jeopardize free speech in the country.
"If the petition is granted an added definition [...] it will cause legal uncertainty for broadcasting and the public," Ahmad said during a hearing at the Constitutional Court last Wednesday.
"Expanding the definition of 'broadcast' to include activities such as Instagram TV, Instagram Live, Facebook Live, YouTube Live and the distribution of audio-visual content on social media platforms [...] means requiring [the companies] to register as broadcasting firms, which, in turn, requires the formation of entirely new broadcasting bodies that are not accommodated by the Broadcasting Law."
He said that OTT companies – the majority of which are foreign firms – that lacked a broadcast permit could face legal sanctions as their transmission was viewed as illegal under the petition.
"In regard to OTT companies and content creators based outside of Indonesia's territorial jurisdiction, they cannot possibly be subject to Indonesian law," Ahmad said, adding that the petition could also harm the flow of international trade with other nations.
The petition has drawn the ire of social media users who responded with a stream of criticism against the stations run by media conglomerate PT Media Nusantara Citra (MNC).
Comedian Bintang Emon, for instance, posted a short skit on Instagram in which he portrays a livestreamer who is arrested by the police for merely broadcasting live footage of himself eating a couple of fried dumplings.
"Please, sir, I only pressed the 'live' button, not a missile launch button," he says in the video clip.
Former coordinating maritime affairs minister Rizal Ramli also voiced his concern regarding the petition, saying that it was merely an effort to acquire "business and legal protection" from the government.
RCTI milik HT yg kuasai banyak channel TV menggugat UU No 32 2002 ttg Penyiaran ke MK, minta media digital "ditertibkan" supaya tidak menyaingi TV. Oligopolist kok minta proteksi ?
Ini oligarchy media penjilat kekuasaan demi bisnis & proteksi hukum. Hari ini minta2 tlg MK ??– Dr. Rizal Ramli (@RamliRizal) August 29, 2020
"Media oligarchy is pandering to power for the sake of business and legal protection," he tweeted.
RCTI programming and production director Dini Putri, during an episode of Deddy Corbuzier's Close the Door podcast on Sunday, brushed off any concerns, arguing that the petition instead would indirectly benefit content creators as their content would be attributable to the OTT companies that hosted it.
Therefore, according to the petition, the government would instead go after the companies instead of individual content creators should there be any problem regarding any digital product, she said.
She also fended off criticism that the TV station only submitted the petition to regain a foothold in the media industry amid purported competition with rising OTT firms in recent years.
"For us, digital [content] complements the free-to-air content. So we're not competing," Dini said.