Bill bans privately owned webs from operating nationwide

JAKARTA — A controversial new broadcasting law in Indonesia bans privately owned broadcasters from operating nationwide.

Parliament passed the bill Thursday while some 2,500 members of the Indonesian Broadcast Television Assn. and their supporters demonstrated outside the building.

The new law gives private webs up to five years to pact with regional stations.

Until now, all 10 channels have been allowed to air nationally but only some programs screened by Indosiar, RCTI, SCTV, TPI TV-7 and Trans TV are seen throughout the country.

“We are not against TV stations in the provinces but a business forced to ‘marry’ people we do not know is bound for failure,” said IBTA chairman Karni Ilyas.

Any broadcaster that does not pact with regional channels within five years will be able to ask the Indonesian Broadcast Commission and the government for an exemption.

State Minister for Communication and Information Syamsul Muarif says parliament and the government want Indonesians to enjoy programs currently aired by all TV stations in the country.

The new law also caps foreign investment in broadcasters at 20%.

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