This 2016 file photo shows a woman displaying Youtube content on a smartphone. (Antara Photo/Zabur Karuru)

Constitutional Court Rejects Motion to Curb Internet-Based Broadcasters

BY :UNGGUL WIRAWAN, DION BISARA

JANUARY 15, 2021

Jakarta. Indonesia's Constitutional Court has rejected on Thursday a motion to expand its broadcasting law that would put content creators on digital platforms like Youtube, Instagram, or TikTok under the same scrutiny and censorship regime as the local radio and television broadcasters. 

RCTI and iNews, two television broadcasting companies, controlled by Indonesian tycoon Harry Tanoesoedibjo, who is also a business partner of the outgoing US President Donald Trump, brought the motion to the Court last year. 

They argued that internet content currently consumed by Indonesians did not conform to the same restrictions applied to the local broadcasters.

The companies said they wanted to level the playing field by expanding the broadcaster definition in Indonesia's 2002 Law about Broadcasting to include digital media companies that live upstream their content on digital platforms like Youtube, Twitter, Spotify, or TikTok.  

The digital companies would be put under the same censorship regime as the local radio and television stations. Under the 2002 law, the stations must ensure that their content contains educational material, upholding the moral, religious, and Indonesian cultural values, and avoid slanders, hate speech, or porn. 

The Constitutional Court, however, rejected the plaintiff's argument. Arief Hidayat, one of the Constitutional judges presiding the case, said that the law only applied to a conventional broadcaster that used the public's radio frequency like radio and television stations and did not apply to the Internet.

Also, the internet-based broadcasters were still bound to the Indonesian laws that control slanders, hate speech, or porn-related content, he said.

"The difference in characteristic between conventional broadcasting and internet-based broadcasting is not correlated with the issue of discrimination, which according to the petitioners is due to multiple interpretations of broadcasting definitions," Arief said. 

Also, the Constitutional Court noted that expanding the broadcaster definition would alter the entire broadcasting law in a way that would create more uncertainties in the legal system. 

Muhammad Rudjito, the chairman of the legal commission at the Video Journalists Alliance (AJV), a Jakarta-based video journalist organization, welcomed the decision. AJV had actively petitioned the Constitutional Court to reject RCTI's and iNews'  motion. 

"We asked the Court to reject the lawsuit completely. Thank God, this decision was in line with our expectations," Rudjito said on Thursday. 

AJV viewed the Constitutional Court decision was in line with the progress in Indonesia's media landscape. 

"The advancement of communication and information technology is a necessity that requires broadcasting businesses to adapt," Syaefurrahman Al Banjary, AJV's chairman, said.

Television still dominates Indonesia's media landscape, accounting for about 72 percent of the Rp 88 trillion ($6.2 billion) in advertisement spending in the first half of 2020, data from research company Nielsen showed. 

However, its market share declined from the 77 percent it enjoyed just four years earlier, as ads spending on digital media rapidly growing. The digital media account for Rp 24 trillion of ads spending, or 20 percent of the total spending in the first half last year, the Nielsen data showed.

 

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