Webs in a spin as tyros prep bow

Asian b'casters struggle even as competition grows

JAKARTA — These are turbulent times in Indonesian broadcasting — one network is on its knees financially, a major stake in the leading station is for sale, and four new webs are preparing to launch.

Commercial broadcaster ANTV, an affil of MTV Asia until last February, is crippled with debt rumored to be running at $100 million accrued since the country hit a financial crisis in 1997.

It owes $70 million in bonds to South Korean and U.K. investment banks, and the Directorate General for Telecommunications says ANTV owes $33,000 in frequency fees alone, leading to speculation it may revoke its license.

Newspaper and magazine publisher PT Indopac Media, which also owns a radio station, may bid for the crippled TV station. Topper Erick Tohir says, “We need a month or so before we arrive at a decision.”

MTV Asia is looking for a new terrestrial outlet after deciding not to reup its contract with struggling ANTV. Its prime target is Global TV, one of the four new broadcasters. Global is controlled by Bimantara, which owns established general entertainment web RCTI and Metro, Indonesia’s first all-news channel, which bowed in November.

“We haven’t reached an agreement with MTV Asia yet but this is a good option because ours will be the nation’s first 24-hour music channel,” says Global spokesman Intan Abdams. “And since we like to include local content, it might mean we have other suppliers apart from MTV.”

As is the case with newcomers Trans, TV-7 and LaTivi, Global will have its color bars aired on Oct. 25. A trial transmission of two to six hours daily will take place between December and February.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency is putting 49% of No. 1 terrestrial broadcaster Indosiar up for sale, leaving it with an 8% holding.

Interested parties are expected to submit offers by December. At present the country does not have a broadcast law, so there are no guidelines for how much a foreign company can own of local broadcast media. But the government is expected to approve holdings of up to 49%.

As Indosiar is the top-rated web, followed by RCTI and SCTV, officials are optimistic about striking a deal. The remaining shares are held by PT Prima Visualindo, Indosiar’s holding company (27.74%), while 15% is held by the public following the web’s IPO in March.

Of the new license holders, Trans TV is aiming for a full launch in March. Its VP Alex Kumara says it will be U.S.-oriented, with product from all the majors. Other offerings will include Spanish League soccer and quizzer “The Price Is Right.”

LaTivi managing director Chrys Kelana says his station expects to begin a daily seven-hour transmission in December. “Our news service is expected to be one of our strong points, and our acquisitions are a combination of American, European and Asian programming,” says Kelana, former news director of RCTI.

Media empire Gramedia acquired newcomer TV-7 (the former CitiTV). Web director Adrian Herlambang says, “Our programs will be more Asia oriented, with slightly more than 60 million people, or about 30% of the total population, having access to them.”

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