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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Indonesia: Broadcasting conflict leaves investors in limbo


Text of report in English by Indonesian newspaper The Jakarta Post website on 14 February

An ongoing dispute between the Information and Communications Ministry and the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) about which institution has the right to issue broadcasting licences has left the industry in limbo.

The conflict began during President Megawati Soekarnoputri's regime when the 2003 Broadcasting Law was passed, establishing the KPI and giving it the right to issue television and radio licences.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government later issued four regulations that gave the ministry the right to issue broadcasting licences. The KPI, with support from some industry players, is still contesting the regulations, which did not come into force until 5 February this year.

North Sumatra commission official Arya said the dispute meant his office was unable to process a backlog of applications for broadcasting licences and set new frequencies.

"It is us who live in the regions who are suffering the most from the new laws," he said. Four government regulations transfer the power to allocate electronic media frequencies and issue broadcasting licences from the KPI to the ministry.

The commission says it will continue issuing broadcasting permits, as mandated by the law establishing it.

"The KPI will continue to hear complaints about broadcasting content and proceed with issuing broadcasting permits," deputy chairman Sinansari Ecip said Monday [13 February]. The decision was made in a meeting of commission executives on Sunday, he said.

Sinansari said the KPI would request the Supreme Court review the four regulations.

Information and Communications Minister Sofyan Djalil said the KPI was welcome to file a judicial review, however, he stressed the government would continue enforcing the regulations.

"Let the Supreme Court decide," he said. The regulations provided legal certainty in the broadcasting sector, Sofyan said.

The commission and broadcasters have raised concerns the regulations would threaten the media's freedom of expression because they granted excessive powers to the Information and Communications Ministry.

Commission member and University of Indonesia communications lecturer Sasa Djuarsa Sendjaja criticized the ministry's response, saying the legislation was deliberately designed with big media bosses in mind.

"What do they mean by legal certainty - is this certainty for the capital owners? What about legal certainty for the public interest?" Sasa said.

Sofyan countered by saying it would be impossible for the broadcasting industry to run without capital.

In an earlier ruling on the matter, the Constitutional Court said the 2003 Broadcasting Law was not against the Constitution.

It said the powers to issue technical regulations on broadcasting should be granted to the KPI.

The Jakarta Post website, Jakarta, in English 14 Feb 06
BBC Monitoring

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