First published on http://www.omantribune.com/
If Indonesia’s presidential election were to be decided by favourable coverage on its television channels, ex-general Prabowo Subianto would be in the driver’s seat and frontrunner Joko “Jokowi” Widodo would trail far behind.
Jokowi is ahead in opinion polls but Prabowo is catching up with less than a month to go for the July 9 election, according to surveys. But the surveys say about 40 per cent of the electorate is undecided and television channels could decide, or at least heavily influence, who will lead the world’s third-largest democracy for the next five years.
“The real war is to win the 41 per cent of voters that are still undecided. In this case, the role of the media will be crucial,” said Amir Effendi Siregar, the head of pr2media, a private media watchdog group.
The viewership numbers heavily favour Prabowo – two media moguls who control nearly half of Indonesia’s TV audience are firmly with the former special forces chief.
Aburizal Bakrie, the head of the Golkar party which has thrown its weight behind Prabowo, owns media group PT Visi Media Asia and its two free-to-air nationwide television stations, ANTV and TVOne.
Hary Tanoesoedibjo, a member of Prabowo’s inner circle of advisers, owns the Media Nusantara Citra group and its three national TV stations RCTI, MNCTV and Global TV.
The other presidential hopeful, Jokowi, is backed by media tycoon Surya Paloh, chairman of the small National Democrat party that is part of his alliance, and owner of leading news channel MetroTV.
“The use of media in political campaigns this year compared to other elections is much more intense and the bias is more obvious because TV owners are involved,” said Siregar, adding that the owners could use their businesses as bargaining chips.
Paloh’s MetroTV however has just 3 per cent of the country’s viewership, compared to 44 per cent for the five stations that are pro-Prabowo, according to Nielsen Indonesia.
According to the market research group, Indonesia’s 11 privately-owned national TV stations reach 95 per cent of the country’s 240 million people. Newspapers reach 12 per cent.