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Sunday April 30th 2017

The Fallen Patriarch

Journal | Friday, 24 December 2010 | sundanesecorner.org

Hawe Setiawan

TVRI Jawa Barat Station in Bandung (photograph: Hawe Setiawan/SC)

My colleagues and I accompanied some Pasundan students who are studying journalism to TVRI Jawa Barat station in Cibaduyut, Southern Bandung, yesterday. As we arrived at the station, I realized enormous changes that have been going on within Indonesian communication system.

TVRI stands for Televisi Republik Indonesia ‘Television of the Republic of Indonesia’. Its main station is located in Senayan, Jakarta, whereas its branches are located in provincial capitals. TVRI Jawa Barat, that is the West Java branch of TVRI, transmits its programmes by means of a transmission tower in Panyandaan, Cimahi.

Started its operation in 1962 TVRI is the first television broadcasting organization in the country. For more than two decades it was the only broadcaster in the country that produces and transmits television programmes nationally. In the era of Soeharto’s autocracy TVRI was one of state-run media operated under the authority of the very strong Departemen Penerangan ‘Information Department’. It was one of the main apparatuses of government propaganda.

I myself belong to an Indonesian generation that received messages from this media up to my college years. Every year we were conditioned to watch a propaganda film produced by the government that portrayed General Soeharto’s move in fighting the communists. Surely, it was a sort of Orwellian world.

Well, to be fair, I do not forget one of the well-known programmes produced by TVRI: Dunia dalam Berita ‘World in News’, a news programme that covered current affairs from all over the world. It was through the channel we knew something about the failed attempt to assassinate US President Ronald Reagan, the war between Iran and Iraq, the Cold War between Eastern Block and Western Block, and many more. In those days the late rock singer Gito Rollies sang a song that referred to the programme, even with the same title.

Changes occurred in the end of 1980s when some private television-broadcasting corporations emerged in the country. From then on Indonesian audience could find more television channels.

One of the rooms in TVRI Jawa Barat station (photograph: Hawe Setiawan/SC)

Following the fall of Soeharto the need for freedom of expression rose. Information Department was finally wiped out. Minister Harmoko disappeared from the screen. Anyone could basically establish her own media without the need to request government permission. As far as TVRI‘s odyssey is concerned, these developments have apparently showed that its golden era has come to an end. Competitors are vastly growing, state budget is decreasing. Some said that it needs about IDR 4-5 trillion a year, yet it only get about IDR 550 billion a year. Some of its staffs quitted, and moved to private television broadcasting corporations.

According to a broadcasting law issued in 2002 Indonesian communication system consists of four broadcasting organizations: lembaga penyiaran publik ‘public broadcasting organization’, lembaga penyiaran swasta ‘private broadcasting organization’, lembaga penyiaran komunitas ‘community broadcasting organization’, and lembaga penyiaran berlangganan ‘cable broadcasting organization’. TVRI is supposed to be a public broadcasting organization.

Actually, it is very important to transform TVRI from government media to public media. We do need public media, mainly in the sense of alternative to big corporate media. In the era when private broadcasting organizations have been growing into big corporate media that dominate our communication system, we need alternative media to canalize public interests.

A promotion banner of an event being hosted by TVRI (photograph: Hawe Setiawan/SC)

As I was walking along the corridor, looking at some rooms in the studio, something personal appeared in my mind. I have more than once been invited to the station for talk show on cultural subjects, mainly in Sundanese programmes. At the first encounter it made me a little bit uneasy for I remembered the times when, as a child in a kampong of West Java, I really did not understand how could people appear on the amazing screen. So small the screen, so many things appeared on it. Hence, as the host asked me some questions, my mind tended to reach another area.

Now I notice that weeds are growing on and around the parking area. It seems that the ground will be covered by them. Some ceramic tiles are dislodged from the stairway floor that lead to the studio.

At the main gate to the station a sort of carnival has been organized to celebrate the coming new year. Hosted by TVRI since 16 December, it will be going on up to 16 January 2011. It is called semarak pameran & hiburan akhir tahun ‘splendor expositions & year’s end celebration’.

It is likely  that TVRI is trying to be survive in this new era. It will also need paradigmatic changes within this broadcasting organization to face the future.

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