Friday, December 12, 2008

Bad TV content: Who's to blame?

Fri, 12/12/2008 10:39 AM | Lifestyle

TV programs have been accused of being of low quality, with many people blaming TV stations for relying merely on the single rating institution in the country -- AGB Nielsen Media Research.

Some blame the AGB-Nielsen system itself for not being transparent, and others accuse the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) of being powerless.

Who is really to blame?

Many media literacy activists have complained that TV stations should decided whether or not they should run a program based merely on the TV audience measurement (TAM) issued by the AGB-Nielsen Media Research.

The rating itself is a measurement of the numbers of people watching a program over a certain period of time.

Many companies prefer to have their commercials aired during a program that has a high rating, assuming, therefore, that their product will reach a larger audience.

Both TV stations and AGB Nielsen Media Research are to blame for the bad quality of programs, said Agus Sudibyo, deputy director of the Aesthetic Art and Technology Foundation (SET).

"TV stations are guilty of broadcasting programs merely based on AGB Nielsen's rating. But AGB Nielsen is also guilty as it is transparent in regard to their survey methods," Sudibyo told the Post.

"They always argue that their business secrets will be revealed but as an institution providing a public service, they should be scrutinized by the public."

Since March 2008, the SET Foundation in collaboration with Tifa Foundation and the Indonesian Television Journalist Union (IJTI) has periodically held public surveys on the quality of programs of 11 TV stations in the country.

Sudibyo said the KPI and the Information and Communication Ministry were in legitimate positions to control the industry but both were powerless without public pressure.

"Not all of the KPI's appeals are obeyed by the TV stations. The industry is very strong. So while waiting for the system to work properly, we need to support the regulatory body through a public movement.

"It takes time but we believe we have touched on something sensitive to media -- which is their image -- so they will listen to us. Advertisers will think twice if told that the highly rated programs, which they are lining up to advertise on, are actually of bad quality," Sudibyo said.

Media literacy activist Santi Indra Astuti, however, blamed TV stations for "misusing" the AGB Nielsen rating system.

Citing examples from the UK, Iceland and Finland, Santi said the industry should use several different rating systems rather than relying on a single rating institution.

"We cannot blame any rating institution. The media is to blame because they rely only on single system," said Santi, who is also a lecturer at the Bandung School of Communication Studies.

As it is performing a public service, AGB Nielsen should be transparent, she said.

Public relations executive of the AGB Nielsen Media Research, Andini Wijendaru, denied the claim that the company had not been transparent in their methodology.

"We are always transparent and we even put it on our website," Andini told the Post.

The survey has nothing to do with the quality of a program because it is designed to measure viewer numbers, she said.

"We would be more than happy if another party came up with a different kind of survey because it will enrich our way of looking at programs," Andini said.

Director of Children Media Development Foundation (YPMA) Boby Guntarto pointed the finger at the country's regulatory body, the KPI.

"The KPI has done their job but it seems to have little to do with surveillance. By our calculations, only about 10 percent of broadcasting material comes under their surveillance," Boby said.

The Broadcasting Law stipulated the need to protect vulnerable groups, such as children, teenagers, the very elderly and the disabled from media violence, but that lower regulations were not in line with the law, he said.

"The KPI's regulation on broadcasting program standards does not mention anything about broadcasting hours for children's programs," he said.

"It's like a vicious circle, but if someone has to be blamed, it should be the KPI, because according to regulations they carry out the public mandate," said Effendi Gazali, a lecturer at the University of Indonesia.

The KPI should be a more independent regulatory body, Effendi added.

In addition, prime time content should be more controlled.

"From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. the TV stations will only be allowed to broadcast programs 'supported' by public research. It should be initiated by public pressure and it should be supported by the KPI and the Information and Communication Ministry," Effendi said.

-- Matheos Viktor Messakh

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