Deliberations of revisions to the Broadcast Law, which will regulate the migration from analog to digital television have begun again. Return these frequencies to the state.
THE Indonesian broadcast industry has been left far behind in Southeast Asia. The House of Representatives and the government need to speed up revisions to Law No. 32/2002 on Broadcasting, especially those to regulate the migration from analog television broadcasts to digital. Deliberations of the new regulations have been stagnant for years, held hostage to the interests of the old players.
Democratization of broadcasting must come immediately in the interests of ending the control of frequencies by a handful of companies, which has been the case since the New Order regime. The old television industry players have been using every means possible to maintain the status quo and oppose the local broadcast obligation. The public wants the broadcast industry to bring the maximum possible benefit to the people. The establishment of the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission as the main regulator brought new hope, but this win for the public was only temporary because following a request for a material examination by an industry group, the Supreme Court ruled that the powers of the Commission be reduced.
Now the government must reallocate broadcast frequencies in line with the rapid development of digital technology. The 2006 Regional Radio Conference in Geneva, Switzerland ended with an agreement on the plan to migrate from analog to digital by June 17, 2015 at the latest. Asian nations asked for an extension until this year. Our nation must not delay further this democratization of broadcasting.
These changes will bring benefits to the people. Using digital technology, frequencies can be allocated to more television broadcasters. At present, the analog television frequency of 700 megahertz (MHz) is controlled by only 14 national TV stations. They make a huge amount of money from advertising. Total income from advertising on national television in 2018, for example, reached Rp110.46 trillion.
The government began the migration to digital television in 2012, but this policy faced a legal challenge because it only gave permits to 10 national TV stations and one public television station. Local TV stations were not awarded anything. The Supreme Court found for the plaintiff and ruled that the migration from analog to digital would have to be regulated by law.
Like it or not, the reallocation needs to go ahead because digital technology brings new opportunities. A frequency band that previously could only be used by one TV channel can now be used for 14. Deliberations of the revision to the broadcasting law need to be accelerated by ending the debate between the two alternatives of single multiplex and multi multiplex. Multiplex, or mux, is the infrastructure for managing channels.
The single mux option makes it possible for the state to have full control of public frequencies by making TVRI or state-owned telecommunication company, the sole manager of broadcasting. The remaining television companies would simply have to provide content. Meanwhile, the multi mux system still opens an opportunity for private entities to control some public frequencies. Naturally, the national television station, which has until now controlled the analog channels, supports this system. It wants to keep its share of the economic cake.
The government should retain the single mux option in the deliberations of this law. It is time the television industry oligopoly is ended. A single mux system will return the frequencies long controlled by a few companies to the state. With transparent management of digital channels, these frequencies could be used to broadcast a wider variety of information. The public will benefit.