Should new media be brought under the law for existing media?: Jakarta Post

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – The Constitutional Court is hearing a judicial review motion filed by two private TV channels affiliated with media conglomeration MNC Group, Rajawali Citra Televisi Indonesia (RCTI) and INews, against the Broadcasting Law that aims to uphold the principle of “equality before the law” in terms of supervision, which the petitioners say over-the-top (OTT) digital content and service providers have eluded.

The legal move comes amid the disruptions caused to the broadcasting industry by rapid developments in information and communication technology.

The impact was evident in the Nielsen report last year, which found that while the TV industry still enjoyed the lion’s share of advertisements, its growth was slowing.

At the same time, online services posted an increase in ad revenue growth. But more worryingly, new media is now closing in on, if not outstripping, the TV industry in terms of audience size. For advertisers, audience size matters most.

They favour new media as they can convey their messages to as many people as possible at a lower price than running ads on TV.

In their petition, RCTI and INews insist that Article 1 of the Broadcasting Law – which defines broadcasting as the transmission of information via a radio frequency through the air, cable and other media – “discriminates” against broadcast media, as OTT companies that distribute digital content and services via the internet remain relatively unregulated.

The petitioners, therefore, demand a redefinition of broadcast media so that digital content and service providers fall under the same law.

If granted by the Constitutional Court, the judicial review motion will have overarching impacts, not only on those involved in digital content and services, but also the public at large.

The level playing field RCTI and INews are demanding will require content creators, YouTubers, Instagram and Facebook users and many other creative industry players to obtain licenses to broadcast their creative products.

If the principle of “equality before the law” is implemented, the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) will be busy monitoring all pieces of content, not in their thousands but in their millions, and enforcing the law against offenders.

Logically, many, except the TV industry, will be able to meet the KPI standards. These regulatory restrictions, if they come to be, will in turn discourage creativity and worse, stifle freedom of speech and expression, which is protected under the Constitution.

They will also limit audiences’ freedom to choose the information and digital products they like. Legal uncertainty would be another consequence of a Constitutional Court decision in favor of the petitioners.

While the broadcast industry is subject to the Broadcasting Law, OTT companies and content creators belong to a different legal domain under the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law, the Pornography Law and a number of other regulations concerning digitally transmitted content.

Instead of denying the disruption, the national TV industry should double its efforts to remain relevant to its audience, which will expect and demand more. Perhaps if the court rejects the petition, innovation will receive a boost.

For private TV stations, keeping pace and adapting to technological changes should be the focus.

The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.

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