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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Television in Indonesia

I am not a couch potato who loves to spend hours daily in front of television. However, I remember when I was in junior and senior high school (1980-1986), I liked to watch some serials—that all were imported from America—on television, such as The Saint (with Roger Moore) or Return of The Saint (starred by Ian Ogilvy), BJ and the Bear, Mannix, TJ Hooker (the primary star is William Shatner who also played in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea or old version of Startrek), and my favorite serial, The Six Million Dollar Man; I claim to undergo puppy love to Lee Majors starring as Steve Austin. (It is not clear whether I was puppily in love with Lee Majors or the imaginary character Steve Austin.) LOL. I also loved watching Little House on the Prairie with Michael Landon as Pa and Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls the writer of Little House on the Prairie. During this era, there was only one television station in Indonesia – TVRI – that belongs to the government.

In 1986 after graduating from senior high school, I moved to Yogya to pursue my study at English Department of Gadjah Mada University. I lived in a boarding room and I didn’t have television so that it was difficult for me to watch it. I very rarely went to the main building to watch television although the landlady provided a television in the family room for the boarders. I recognized it as the start to ignore television in my life. The launching of some private television stations –RCTI and SCTV – did not really attract me to be a couch potato.

In 1993, after graduating from my bachelor’s degree, before getting a job, I spent some time to watch television while enjoying my role as full housewife and taking care of my little daughter, Angie. Two serials I liked to watch most were The Highlander and McGyver. I also liked watching RAVEN because Lee Majors played in it too.  I did not watch Friends and Melrose Place because they were on quite late at night, when I already went to bed to lullaby Angie and myself. LOL.I recognized that the beginning of the 1990s was the start of the booming of some telenovelas from Mexico. At first Maria Mercedez; it competed the Wild Rose and the soap opera of DALLAS. I watched Maria Mercedez, and also Marimar with Thalia as the main attraction. In the middle of 1990s, television stations started to show Japanese soap operas, starting with Tokyo Love Story. By the end of 1990s, more and more Asian soap operas became favorite programs on television.

After getting busier and busier with my job, practically I did not have leisure time to enjoy television programs.

Right now there are about ten television stations in Indonesia.

Last March 25 2007 I read a quite interesting article in one local newspaper stating that American movies no longer become the main attraction on television in Indonesia. After 2002, there have been more and more sinetrons (television serials) made by Indonesian production houses. These last two years, Korean telenovelas have caught Indonesian viewers’ hearts too.

The writer of the article questioned (or concluded?) whether Indonesian people already become dull so that they cannot differentiate qualified and unqualified television programs—especially the serials, or soap operas, or telenovelas. They will choose to watch Indonesian (or Korean) soap operas although the stories are not really interesting –not to mention educative—rather than to watch American serials, such as True Calling, Six Feet Under, etc.

What does this phenomenon tell us? Is it as simple as that by concluding that Indonesian people’ intelligence have become blunt?

First, we are not to forget that the situation now is different from one or two decades ago where there was only one television station—TVRI. It belonged to the government so that the interference of the government to decide what programs to show on television was very obvious. The very strong interference of the government in the personal lives was very strong at that time – not only to choose what political party to vote, I guess. TVRI indeed became the main media of the government to “shape” kind of citizens they wanted. When there was soap opera produced by Indonesian production house, the government had to be sure first that the story would not endanger the established position of Soeharto’s regime. By showing a lot of American movies on television, the government did not need to do strict control, except for the possibility of porn scenes.

Information Department—as one department in Indonesian government—was closed some years ago so that the government did not really have high chance to dictate what to show on television.

Second, the success of Mexican and Asian soap operas in Indonesian televisions could not be separated from the actors and actresses who have similar physical appearance with most Indonesian people so that they thought that they did not watch “dreams” on television, but something real (the main plot of Maria Mercedez was a poor girl who married a good-looking and rich young man seemed real because Thalia was not really “white”, besides the soap operas were translated into Indonesian Language, compared to, let’s say DALLAS or DINASTY.)

Third, the booming of reality show to look for “star” has changed many young generations’ ideal. Being a doctor or engineer is no longer the main goal in Indonesian’ kids nowadays compared to their “predecessors”, a decade or two decades ago kids would say, “I want to be a doctor” or “I want to be an engineer”, but now kids will say, “I want to be a celebrity”  celebrity here means as a pop star. Being an actor or actress has attracted the young generations to get lucrative profession, they do not need to pursue their education till high, if only graduating from senior high school is already enough to make them live comfortably. The abundance of the soap operas—with low quality—guarantees them that there will always be chance to make their dreams come true. By joining a reality show, they will keep their dream to be rich and popular. The production house’s owners of course do not bother to make qualified serials if they already get high profit with “so so” stories and “so so” acting technique from the actors and actresses.

Why do television stations show such rubbish on television?

Profit. They do not need to spend much money to buy movies from America.

Why do Indonesian people watch such rubbish on television?

Because they feel like they watch themselves on the roles played by actors and actresses.

PT56 13.05 050407

1 comment:

amellie said...

very nice post!! yes, i was surprised when i went back to jkt last year... everything on TV was sooooo bad! infotainment.. soap operas.. etc.. etc. Thank God it was World Cup fever, so I only watched the game.. it's so sad to see my little cousins, watching those mystical and horror stuff!! parents are busy with their own activities.. children are left behind with those uneducated tv shows. so sad