Friday, December 12, 2008

Glued to the tube

Matheos Viktor Messakh , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Fri, 12/12/2008 10:40 AM | Potpourri

Children watch a TV program unsupervised by adults. Research has found that Indonesian children are exposed to TV for more than four hours a day. Data also shows children are being increasingly exposed to TV programs containing content that is dangerous or too sexual for young minds. (JP/Arief Suhardiman)Children watch a TV program unsupervised by adults. Research has found that Indonesian children are exposed to TV for more than four hours a day. Data also shows children are being increasingly exposed to TV programs containing content that is dangerous or too sexual for young minds. (JP/Arief Suhardiman)

Television is one of the most prevalent media influences on children and watching TV has become a daily activity for many, whether they are from the city or from remote areas of the country.

Many houses even have more than one set, and many parents are not aware that heavy exposure to TV can have negative consequences.

"Some busy parents put their kids in front of the TV because it is the easiest way (to keep them occupied). They think their kids are safe but really they are in danger," director of the Children's Media Development Foundation (YPMA), Boby Guntarto, told The Jakarta Post.

How much of an impact TV has on children depends on many factors, such as how much they watched, their age and personality, whether they watched it alone or with adults and whether their parents talked to them about what they watched, Boby said.

Research conducted by the YPMA involving 939 children in five elementary schools in Jakarta and Bandung in 2006 found that children in the country were exposed to TV for more than four hours a day.

"Normally a child should spend (no more than) 15 hours a week (watching TV). In fact, some spend more than 30 hours a week. They spent more hours doing that than studying," Boby said.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the Aesthetic Art and Technology Foundation (SET) in October and November of this year found that the AGB Nielsen Media Research rating had little to say about the quality of the country's TV programs.

The survey, which was took place in 11 cities, revealed that 15 programs which were rated highly by AGB-Nielsen Media Research were rated bad or very bad quality by the respondents.

About 89.2 percent of the 212 respondents said TV entertainment programs were the most aired programs, with 48.8 percent stating the quality of these programs was very bad.

The research found a relatively good response to news programs and talkshow programs, though it revealed that there were very few quality shows suitable for children.

About 69.3 percent said entertainment programs were dangerous for children; 61.8 percent said they provided bad role models; 48.6 percent said they were very bad in encouraging social empathy; 46.2 percent said the programs contained what they viewed as pornographic content and 61.3 percent said they failed to expose relevant social issues.

The survey was not aimed at discrediting the AGB Nielsen rating system but was done to provide an alternative perspective for the public, said Agus Sudibyo, SET's Foundation deputy director.

"The rating is still important but TV stations should realize that a program's rating should also take into account its quality and public impact," Sudibyo said.

Over the past two decades, hundreds of studies have examined how violent programming affects children and young people. While a direct "cause and effect" link is difficult to establish, there is a growing consensus that some children may be vulnerable to violent images and messages.

Researchers have identified three potential responses to media violence in children: Increased fear among children, also known as the "mean and scary world syndrome", desensitization to real-life violence and increased aggressive behavior.

The social learning theory states that people learn how to behave by observing others, including those in the media, said Santi Indra Astuti, a lecturer at the Bandung Islamic University.

"Just look at the media content, whether it is pro-social or anti-social. We need to be aware of the anti-social content. Like a virus, we need to prepare an anti-virus," Santi said.

Quoting a cultivation theory developed by George Gerbner, Santi said that television had long-term effects which were small, gradual and indirect, yet cumulative and significant.

Children who watch a lot of television were likely to be more influenced by the ways in which the world is framed by television programs than the children who watch less, she said. This can make children afraid of the world around them.

Another effect on children is desensitization to real-life violence. Some children's cartoons portray violence as humorous and realistic consequences of violence are seldom shown, Boby said.

"In a traffic jam, a child could easily tell his father to hit the car in front ... because of what he has seen on TV," he said.

It can also affect learning and school performance if it cuts into the time children need for activities crucial to healthy mental and physical development. Most of a child's free time, especially during the early formative years, should be spent in activities such as playing, reading, exploring nature, learning about music or participating in sports.

TV viewing is a sedentary activity, and has been proven to be a significant factor in childhood obesity. Time spent in front of it is often at the expense of more active pastimes.

Children are also exposed to sexual content on TV. While it can be a powerful tool for educating young people about the responsibilities and risks of sexual behavior, such issues are seldom mentioned or dealt with in a meaningful way in programs containing sexual and adult content.

There are many ways to minimize its potential negative effects. Knocking on the industry's door to push for safer program content for children during times of the day when they are watching can be a start.

Parents and teachers also need to take on a more active role, Boby said.

"The TV industry invests lots of money and they will do anything to make a profit. So, rather than facing them directly, we prefer to persuade parents to understand more about its negative impacts and how to deal with this," he said.

The YPMA conducts regular surveys on the media impact on children and teenagers as well as publishes Kidia (, a regular guide on media content for parents and children.

In an effort to expand media literacy among the public, the YPMA has held media literacy education seminars in Jakarta since 2002. These have been held in 35 elementary schools in Central Java and East Java.

"We train teachers to include appropriate media literacy materials in their existing curriculum. We choose elementary school students because the watching habit is formed at these ages," Boby said.

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nicholas refuses to be called an icon

The Jakarta Post | Wed, 12/10/2008 8:17 AM | People

NICHOLAS SAPUTRA: (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)NICHOLAS SAPUTRA: (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)

JAKARTA: Nicholas Saputra has been chosen by the Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence (Kontras) as an icon for the organization’s campaign on human rights — but the actor and popular VJ doesn’t want to be referred to as one.

“The term (icon) is too heavy for me. Being an icon requires a big responsibility and I think I haven’t reach that level,” Nicholas was quoted as saying by Tempointeraktif on Monday.

The 24-year-old said the movement “Human Loves Human” was a social movement established by Kontras to call on people to respect human rights and love each other.

Nicholas, who won the Best Actor award at the 2005 Indonesian Film Festival for his role in Gie, said he preferred to be called a volunteer rather than an icon.

Together with other celebrities such as director Riri Riza and Mira Lesmana, Nicholas was selected by the human rights defender organization as one of the icons of the movement.

Kontras also collaborated with the JiFFest management team to screen a “Human Loves Human” selection of films during the festival, which was held from Dec. 5 to 9.

“We want to create a more humanist image. The image of Kontras and human rights movement in Indonesia has been too political. People perceived Kontras as a hard and political movement. This movement is more social and ethical. We want to spread the anti-violence movement through a social movement,” Kontras director Usman Hamid told The Jakarta Post. — JP/Matheos V. Messakh

Dedy Mizwar slams TV rating system

The Jakarta Post | Fri, 12/05/2008 11:41 AM | People

JP/J. Adiguna JP/J. Adiguna

Jakarta: Senior actor and director Dedy Mizwar says that in order to improve the quality of TV programs the country needs more than one rating institution.

"The AGB Nielsen (rating system) has become like a god to all TV stations. There is no democracy in the media industry because we only have one window to view TV programs," Dedy told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the launch of a public rating survey on Wednesday.

The 53-year-old, who is also the chairman of the National Film Advisory Body, questioned why no local company was willing to invest in the business.

"Why doesn't (Indonesia) establish its own ratings company? Why should everything be supplied by foreign companies? There are many investors for the media industry in this country but maybe they just don't care (about TV rating)," said the man who has won five Indonesian Film Festival awards since 1986.

Dedy said the country needed more TV-watch organizations and more than one rating institution as the censorship system was ineffective.

"If an institution is the one and only source ... how can we know if they are manipulating (the system)," he said. -- JP/Matheos V. Messakh