Suharto wants broadcasting Bill reviewed

IN A move unprecedented in Indonesia’s New Order era, President Suharto has asked for a review of a Bill passed by Parliament last December.

State Secretary Moerdiono, in announcing the decision at a parliamentary commission on Wednesday, said that Mr Suharto had objected to some of the clauses in the broadcasting Bill because they were unworkable. A Bill becomes law only when the President signs it.

He said that there were a number of articles in the Bill that Mr Suharto wanted amended, in particular one which stipulated that a national television station had to have a broadcasting coverage of half the population.

Said Mr Moerdiono: “To the President this is a matter of principle because it would be a mistake for him to sign a Bill into law that contains matters which are technically hard to implement.”

He said Mr Suharto would soon write to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Wahono, to ask for a second deliberation of the Bill.

Newly-appointed Information Minister Raden Hartono said that the Bill needed changes to anticipate future challenges.

He said another article up for amendment was one stipulating that his ministry issued licences for broadcasters on a five-year basis.

He said: “The term is too short because the broadcasting business deals with big investment. I think the licences should ideally apply for at least 10 years.”

He added that articles on punitive measures for violators would also be amended.

Political observers here told The Straits Times yesterday that another reason the Bill was up for review was because it did not create a conducive regulatory environment for the broadcasting industry’s expansion.

Information Ministry officials told The Straits Times that they expected the Bill to become law before Sept 30 when the current Parliament term ends.

Said Mr Akhmadsyah Naina, the ministry’s media director: “We want clearer regulations to keep up with the rapid changes in information technology. The old rules are no longer appropriate.”

The government sponsored the Bill in its first attempt to give legal basis to its control of the broadcasting industry as well as “special broadcasters” such as Internet providers and cable TV.

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