The Jakarta Post
Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI), the national radio station, was established less than one month after president Sukarno announced independence on Aug. 17, 1945, and used the radio infrastructure left behind by radio stations previously run by the Japanese invaders.
Radio had been a crucial medium to unite the efforts for independence at the time as it was an effective tool to spread propaganda and launch the psy-war against the aggressors.
In its early years, RRI was fully controlled by the government through the Information Ministry.
Almost 20 years after RRI was born, Sukarno's ambition to host the 6th Asian Games prompted the establishment of a national television station.
The preparations began in 1961 and, on Aug. 17, 1962, Televisi Republik Indonesia (TVRI) launched its first trial: the live television broadcast of the Independence Day ceremony at Merdeka Palace in Central Jakarta.
Within a week, TVRI was officially operational, marked by a live broadcast of the Asian Games' opening ceremony at the Bung Karno Stadium in South Jakarta.
In 1963, TVRI operations were run by a foundation headed by President Sukarno.
A few years after a succession dubbed a coup that saw President Soeharto succeed Sukarno, TVRI and RRI underwent organizational transformation.
In 1974, TVRI and RRI were 'united' under the management of the Information Ministry.
During Soeharto's New Order era, TVRI and RRI were largely effective government tools of propaganda. With almost no private broadcasters in the country, both monopolized information disbursed to the public and served as the government's mouthpiece.
With the spirit of 'reformation', the Information Ministry was dissolved when President Abdurrahman Wahid came to power in 1999.
In 2000, TVRI and RRI were transformed into non-profit state-run firms, with the hope of turning them into professional institutions that could cope with the vast increase in commercial broadcasters. But the new form of organization was considered ineffective and obsolete.
In 2002, TVRI became a profit-seeking state-owned company due to pressure that it should compete in the marketplace against commercial broadcasters. The new status was retained, only to be immediately killed by the newly issued Broadcasting Law enacted later that year amid demand from politicians that TVRI and RRI should not focus on commercial objectives.
Due to the law, TVRI and RRI were transformed again. This time, they were called LPP (public broadcasting institutions), a form of state body focusing on serving the public and supposedly independent of the government.
But disputes surrounding the new state body format have remained until today, leaving TVRI and RRI in limbo.
Regulation barriers have prevented the Finance Ministry and the Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry from recognizing the LPP, resulting in vagueness when it comes to the two broadcasters' budgets and employee management.
A new scheme to salvage TVRI and RRI arose again in 2012 with a merger plan. But the House of Representatives and government were half-hearted, leaving a bill crucial for allowing the merger stalled.
Last month, hope was rejuvenated after the House included a bill on merging the Republic of Indonesia's radio and television (RTRI) into one, if its priority list is passed this year.
According to the bill, RTRI would be allowed to receive money from third parties but not to the same degree commercial broadcasters receive from advertisements.
RTRI's financial sources, according to the bill would be: 'State Budget, paid services, public service advertorials and other legal sources.'
But the bill, if passed, may not be the panacea for the protracted problems plaguing TVRI and RII. Rampant infighting, power abuse, mismanagement and alleged graft have been cited as holding back progress in TVRI and could affect the merger process.
'Rumors about rampant foul play, particularly in procurement, at TVRI turned out to be true. The Mandra case could be just the tip of an iceberg,' lawmaker Meutya Viada Hafid said.
The Attorney General's Office (AGO) has recently declared comedian Mandra a graft suspect for a fictitious program funded by TVRI.
' JP/Bagus BT Saragih
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