Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – The government finally migrated on Nov. 2 analog free-to-air TV to digital broadcasts through the analog switch off (ASO) program for almost half of 514 regions in Indonesia, including the Greater Jakarta area, after seven years of delay. The government will free some TV frequencies for other purposes, including 5G fast internet services. And yet, three TV groups challenged the ASO, arguing that the people are not yet ready.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD surprised many when he revealed last week that seven TV stations – RCTI, MNC TV, Global TV, iNews TV, TV One, ANTV, and Cahaya TV – still conducted analog broadcasts. Mahfud said the seven TV stations conducted illegal broadcasts as the government had revoked their analog radio broadcast.
RCTI, MNC TV, Global TV and iNews TV belong to the Media Nusantara Citra (MNC) Group, owned by businessman-politician Hary Tanoesudibyo, while TV One and ANTV are part of the VIVA group, affiliated to the politically connected Bakrie Group. Meanwhile, Banten-based Cahaya TV belongs to businessman Bambang Santoso, chairman of the Indonesian TV Network Association (ATVJI), the lobby group that managed to postpone the migration of analog to digital broadcasting for seven years.
MNC Group chairman Hary Tanoesudibjo said his group had reluctantly joined the ASO on Nov. 3 but would challenge the ASO to the court. He said the people are not ready with the ASO, and also, the basis for the ASO is the problematic 2020 Job Creation Law that the Constitutional Court declared as "conditionally unconstitutional" in 2021.
Mahfud welcomed Hary's planned lawsuit, arguing that 98 percent of Indonesian households were ready to migrate to digital broadcasting. Also, Mahfud added, despite the Constitutional Court's decision, the ASO policy was legal and enforceable and the government would not annul the ASO policy and rather faced the challenge in court.
Indonesia has long tried to migrate from analog TV to digital but to no avail due to resistance from major broadcasters in the country that have hugely invested in analog technology. A plan to revise Law No. 32/2002 on broadcasting, which was going to be the legal basis for television digitalization, has been on the table for 10 years without any meaningful progress. After the passage of the Job Creation law in 2020 that amended some articles of the 2022 Broadcasting Law, Indonesia scheduled the ASO. As a result, Indonesia is seven years late in entering the era of digital TV.
The government on Nov. 2 managed to implement the ASO for 222 out of 514 regencies and mayoralties across the country. The remaining 292 regions are still waiting for the government to distribute free digital TV adapter set-top boxes (STBs) for low-income families. As of Nov. 2, the Communication and Information Ministry and private TV stations managed to distribute about 1.1 million STBs or 20 percent of the total 5.5 million STBs allocated for low-income families.
With the migration into digital broadcasting, Indonesia would reap a huge digital advantage by freeing a large chunk of frequencies in the range of 478-806 Megahertz that have largely been used by analog TVs for other purposes, especially for fast internet service via 5G technology. According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), if the migration to digital TV was conducted in 2020, the digital dividend it would create could reach US$39.9 billion by 2026 in the form of new business, new jobs and taxes.
During the analog period, 14 TV stations occupied a total of 328 MHz in the 478-806 MHz frequency range. With the migration to digital, the 14 TV stations would only need 176 MHz in the 518-694 MHz frequency range. This happens because one analog TV broadcast requires 8 MHz, which could be used by 5 high-definition (HD) digital TV broadcasts or 13 standard-definition (SD) digital TV broadcasts.
With the ASO, the government will free 112 MHz in the frequency range of 694-806 MHz that will be used for 5G fast internet service as well as a disaster early warning system and educational TV programs. Meanwhile, the government will reserve the 478-518 MHz for later usage.
The bumpy road to digital broadcasting
Indonesia and other members of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) attending the 2006 Regional Radiocommunication Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, agree to migrate from analog to digital broadcasting through the analog switch off (ASO) program by June 2015
The House of Representative puts on its agenda to revise Law No. 32/2002 on broadcasting to support the ASO. But political lobbying by free-to-air TV owners grouped in the Indonesian TV Network Association (ATVJI) stalls the amendment process.
The Communications and Information Ministry (Kominfo) issues regulation no. 022/PER/M.KOMINFO/11/2011 on digital free-to-air broadcasting. The ATVJI challenges the regulation to the court.
The Supreme Court sides with the ATVJI and declares the 2011 Kominfo regulation invalid, saying that the migration from analog to digital broadcasting has to be regulated by a law.
Eighty-5 percent of ITU member countries, including Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines, have migrated to digital broadcasting. Indonesia and some other countries request a postponement to the deadline to 2020.
Kominfo and 36 private broadcasters conduct trials of digital TV broadcasting in 12 locations.
House of Representatives Commission I completes the drafting of the amendment bill to the 2002 Broadcasting Law, but the bill never goes into deliberation.
The House of Representatives passes the Job Creation Law that also amends some articles in the 2002 Broadcasting law and mandates ASO in two years' time. The government schedules ASO for all 514 regencies and mayoralties in Indonesia in five stages, with the first stage to complete the ASO by Aug. 21, 2021 and the last stage by Nov. 2.
The government cuts the five stages to ASO to three stages, with the first stage to complete the ASO by April 30 and the last stage by Nov. 2.
The government decides to remove the three stages of ASO and requires all regions to have completed the ASO by Nov. 2.
What we've heard
Several sources have said that the tug-of-war on the migration of television broadcasts from analog to digital continues due to the unwillingness of television broadcasters to shift from analog-based broadcasting equipment. Throughout the years they have invested a lot in it.
At the same time, broadcasters were also disappointed because they did not get the multiplexed slots they had expected. One of the sources at a private television station explained that the company where he worked had agreed to take part in the distribution of free set top boxes (STB) for people who could not afford them under the assumption that they would get more multiplexing digital TV slots.
As it would appear, the government has selected private broadcasting institutions to obtain hosting rights for digital multiplex TV broadcasts in 22 different regions throughout Indonesia.
According to a different source, the MNC News Group was greatly disappointed by the multiplex hosting slots that were below expectations. This disappointment is the reason why MNC's STB distribution has been half-hearted.
"MNC has only provided 2 percent of STBs, while Media Group has provided 3 percent," said a source in the government. A different source added that the average private TV corporation with multiplex rights had only given out 2-5 percent of the STB shares.
They are trying to shift the obligation to the government. The source added that private television companies had repeatedly delayed the migration of analog to digital TV using the excuse that they wanted the government to hand out their share of STBs to low-income households first.
The government has been aiming for the creation of digital dividend rights. The frequencies that analog TV broadcasts have used could be repurposed to provide 5G networks and communication lines for emergency broadcasts.
A different source in the government said that the technology for analog broadcasts was inefficient. "A single analog broadcast could be used for 12 digital TVs," said the source. With the available frequency slots, the migration to digital broadcasts could be used for the development of telecommunication infrastructure.
A source from the legislature added that the issue would be resolved if private TV companies stopped delaying the migration process, as stated in the broadcasting bill. Through lobbying in the House of Representatives, TV companies had cancelled the discussion of the analog switchover in the broadcasting bill. "They do not want any new entries into the television industry," told the source.