Monday, April 17, 2006

While browsing through Indonesia related blogs I’ve hit on a very good article by Duncan Graham on his Indonesia Now blog.

Let me quote few lines of the article for you:

Thanks to the TV companies’ commitment to lifting the national knowledge base I’m smarter, wiser - and more evil. You thought TV means television? Wrong, foolish reader. It stands for Teaching Violence. I now know how to commit suicide, raise the devil, fleece the poor, torment the vulnerable, hide the loot then corrupt the evidence. And kill. By gun, knife, poison, pillow, car, pitfall, rope, fire, electricity and water. Much of this information is fresh. I wasn’t aware of the best cord for a good hanging or the appropriate knot. Thanks to TV these details are now clear. Shooting and stabbing was old hat. I’d been taught gun skill in army cadets by a sadistic sergeant (is there any other type?) Don’t fire at the head – it’s too small a target. Gut shots disable best.

Full text can be found here.

Me myself I rarely watch Indonesian TV. It’s not about my understanding of Indonesian language, but almost entirely about extremely poor content broadcasted by local “Teach Violence” stations. It’s full of idiotic movies, extremely ridiculous locally made soap operas called here “Sinetron” and most of all full of advertisements.

For instance the TV stations can extend 1:30h movie to three hours, simply by putting 10 minutes advertisements every 10 minutes of the movie – if movie is too long they can even cut some of the scenes and replace it with advertisements. Moreover, when you skip channels there is an advertisement on almost every channel. Like this would not be enough the TV stations also use all the dirty tricks that are forbidden in many western countries. This includes sudden volume increase when the advertisements are played, thus if you were just doing something else and don’t pay your attention to TV, you’ll definitely notice the advert after sudden TV volume increase, also there is no special notice before the advertisement will be played, it just suddenly pops up. The advertisers also use all the dirty tricks they could use such as constant use of kids in the advertisements, use of psychological tricks base on comparison (she looks better than me!) etc. Thus, considering all this I think I should be paid to watch the local TV stations. Since they ignore the invoices I send them, I watch movies on DVDs and read the news on the Internet - trying to avoid the propaganda.

Regarding the movies content itself it’s pretty much clear that TV censors are so focused on cutting out all the kisses and nudity from the movies (no kidding, any kiss will be cut out by the Indonesian TV censors, even if it’s a wedding kiss) that they they are too lazy to censor the violence, all the blood and body parts everywhere on the TV screen. If you happen to have kids, they can also happily watch murder victims full in blood, victims of road accidents, suicides etc. and all on weekend day time! Most of these scenes would never appear on any western TV station even after midnight, while here you can watch it together with kids while having your breakfast.
Can watch this in Indonesia with kids daytime.

Come kids. What an interesting TV program on local TV.

Kids, come quickly. There's something for you on local TV!

CENSORED. Can't see this on Indonesian TV even after midnight.

Yeh, that's local TV. I hope I won't get deported for publishing this cartoon.

Finally I have to talk more about the “Sinetron”, which gets enormous popularity here. The plot of these Indonesian soap operas is pretty much simple. There is always some poor maid / step daughter / orphan or a girl / wife oppressed by sadistic husband / father / white expatriate (called here “Bule”) / evil wife / drug using son / gay son / prostitute daughter etc. There must be always some doze of mystical or religion related unexplainable events, lots of psychological and physical violence, thefts and lots of talking about money etc.

Photo: Samson Betawi - Sinetron version of mythical Samson

To summarize the local operas I’d say “life sucks and then you die”, or suddenly become rich etc. unless your dead mother is magically protecting you or you have some magic skills. Most of all the rich people must be shown as evil, while the poor uneducated people are always shown as the good ones.

I’ve had a chance to talk with one of the major producers of these soap operas and I bluntly asked: “I think your production is piece of crap. I can’t believe people watch this!” his answer was very blunt as well “Me neither! I know it is rubbish but as long as it is cheap to produce and people still watch it I really don’t care.”

If you wish to know how ridiculous it can get, read the first paragraph of the following article. Although I totally disagree with the author's conclusion "For lower class families, watching Sinetron provides for symbolic consumption and strengthens the moral values they adhere to" as I think Sinetron is brainwashing people and disconnects them from reality and definitely does not improve their lifes. Moreover, imagine if people watching this crap would read something valuable or study rather than waste their time on watching Sinetron. I think we would have better educated population here, spend less on electricity and have people more focus on improving their own lifes, thus I could even say that Sinetron is causing serious loss to the state. Anyway, browse through the text and judge it yourself.


Anonymous said...

Hi Marek,
totally agree that the tv here is rubbish. Well, actually, I think TV in general is rubbish (have you seen Fox TV USA?). I have yet to see a really decent fiction/non-fiction show. Everything on tv is always over hyped, over gory.
Sinetrons: crap. whats crazy is that it generates over 60% of most stations income. crap sells. barnum was right!

I miss Sesame Street.

-w. in jakarta.

Marek Bialoglowy said...

Good point, the TV actually became very low level everywhere, not only in Indonesia. However, in most developed countries there is usually state sponsored channel focused on culture, which I think improves the situation quite a lot. It’s actually very interesting as for instance on Polish version of such TV you can watch unique movies from around the world (here you can watch it only during JFF, otherwise Hollywood or Bollywood all the time), also good cultural programmes and something high level, not just violence, blood and death. It also almost does not show advertisement, thus it’s even more interesting to watch. Here the TVRI have some culture content but this TV stations is for grannies. There is almost nothing culture related on TVRI that could attract young Indonesians, which I think should change. TVRI is also blindly focused on Indonesia, forgetting that Asia is an extremely interesting region with highly diversified cultures, thus so many interesting things to share.

Anyway, poor TV resulted in people spending more and more time on-line and it seems that in long-term the TV is doomed. I know number of people who like me almost don't watch TV and clearly there are more and more of us, thus I think soon or later the TV stations will have to change or they will lose their most valuable viewers.

Meanwhile, I think the more people write about this issue the more chance there is that something will change.

Marek Bialoglowy said...

TV Trends:

Australia, Canda.

Note the huge drop for age 18-24 and 5-12. Clearly, they prefer to spend their time on-line rather than watching TV advertisements every 10-30 minutes.

Munzir said...

Thanks to cable tv, I can dump local TV stations and watch Animal Planet. I find more pleasure watching animals than those idiots in sinetron.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this good commentation of the TV programmes today. I can tell you that you are not alone. TV in Europe is almost the same. Despite some censored breasts in music-videos on MTV, you can watch everything the whole day through. Of course private channels are worse than public channels. But I can tell you that the public channels do their best to get close to the programme of the privates. Anyway, I totally agree with your article and I hope that sometimes people can change the programme. TV industries always say "the consumer decides the offer/content" BUT hey wake up: "the offer/content decides the consumption". And well, poor people can't afford cable TV, they have no choice but watch this stupid Sinetrons, or as called here in Europe Telenovela.

Cokorda Raka Angga Jananuraga said...

Did you also notice the trend of "religious sinetron".... They always end with "pak haji" kick away the "syaiton" with the "ayat kursi".

jaya said...

Well, not only Sinetron is a crap. From morning till afternoon, always full of "Artist Gossip". I always regret after I could no longer hold myself to say "why you can stand to see that crap" to my relatives or friends. It's their choices but I felt so sorry for them.

I agree with your post. Teaching Violence...ha ha ha, good

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