The Jakarta Post
The nation will again see a fierce political battle involving media magnates after MNC group owner Hary Tanoesoedibjo pledged support for Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa in the upcoming presidential election.
Hary resigned from the Hanura Party after its chairman Wiranto endorsed the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) presidential pair of Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo and Jusuf Kalla.
On Thursday evening, Prabowo and Gerindra co-founder Hashim Djojohadikusumo appeared at Hary's house in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta.
Hary said he supported Prabowo because the two of them had similar visions in advancing the country's economy. 'I will be involved in supporting Prabowo. Currently, the country's economic growth benefits the middle and upper classes and not the whole community,' he said after Prabowo's visit.
With Hary's support, Prabowo will receive a significant campaign boost through MNC Group ' which claims to be Southeast Asia's largest integrated media company.
Under the MNC flag, Hary has the biggest share of the free-to-air market with three television stations, namely RCTI, MNCTV and Global TV. The group also has three pay television networks ' Indovision, Okevision and Top TV. Aside from that, Hary controls Koran Sindo newspaper and a handful of radio stations.
The impact of Hary's media power was evident just hours after the meeting. For example, while other newspapers made Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali's corruption charges headline news, Koran Sindo chose to run 'Hary All Out for Prabowo's Victory' on its front page, coupled with a large photo of Hary and Prabowo clasping hands.
Aside from Hary's media outlets, Prabowo will likely benefit from his coalition with the Golkar Party. The family of Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie controls PT Visi Media Asia (VIVA), which owns two television stations ' ANTV and TVOne ' as well as online portal Vivanews.
Jokowi, on the other side, is prepared with significant media support from NasDem chairman Surya Paloh, the owner of Media Group. The group manages news station Metro TV and Media Indonesia daily. Hary was a member of the NasDem Party before severing his ties with Surya and joining Hanura.
Some media stations belonging to Surya, Bakrie and Hary gave excessive coverage and advertising spots to their respective parties in the lead up to the April 9 legislative election, the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) and the Elections Monitoring Agency (Bawaslu) has found.
The possibility of this election violation reoccurring ahead of the presidential election may not be small as some media outlets are considered to have presented extensive coverage on particular presidential hopefuls.
A political expert with Pol-Tracking Institute, Hanta Yuda, criticized disproportionate political reports in the media outlets. 'Let the public assess both presidential candidates because they are looking for a leadership figure,' he said in a telephone interview on Friday.
Hanta added that endorsing a presidential candidate could have an adverse impact on the media outlets as they could become dependent on the candidate's party and figures. (put)