Published: Jul 29, 2007


Rebecca Henschke

Community radio in Yogyakarta and Java is in a period of exciting change. Radio has emerged from the New Order with a legal and economic framework that is resistant to monopoly control of large capital and to the centralized control of Jakarta. Radio, being a verbal medium and relatively cheap to run, is blossoming as a communication tool at a grass roots level.

In Yogyakarta, there are currently twenty-six community radio stations. These radio stations range from student university non-profit radio stations; community radio stations established by farmers, art communities, the Malioboro street community; and a station broadcasting local government talk shows during local elections.

The frequency band in Yogyakarta is almost full. There are currently fifty-nine radio stations broadcasting in Yogyakarta and the surrounding area. Community radio stations merely select a frequency that they find free and broadcast on it, using a home made low transmitter and basic broadcasting equipment.

Community stations

Radio Panagati is one radio station in Yogyakarta that acts as a tool of empowerment for the local community. This radio station is located in the Terban sub-district office, and broadcasts to the community living on the banks of the major river that runs through Yogyakarta. Radio Panagati broadcasts every night from 7 - 10 on 92.2 FM. Using a 10 watt transmitter, it can be heard by 2,847 families.

During the elections for members of the city parliament in November 2001, Radio Panagati broadcast a talk show over five nights on which all five local candidates could explain their plans and policies. The community joined in the debate by phoning in and speaking with each candidate or visiting the station.

'The station was needed because there was a major problem with information getting through to the community. There was not enough information, so the community was powerless and confused. People always said, 'Oh I didn't know about that' 'I didn't hear about that!' This radio station acts as one tool to give information so the community can take control of its own destiny. Through the talk shows this station is working to create greater transparency in the political system,' said Pak Jarwono from Radio Panagati.

Pak Jarwono explained that for the next election talk shows the station plans to broadcast through the loudspeakers of three mosques in the area, to reach those in the community who don't own a radio.

Radio Suara Malioboro is different once again. A group of artists, activists, and human right workers, street kids, students and music lovers from around Malioboro road, the central street in Yogyakarta, created the station. This community radio station was established from very basic beginnings in March this year and first broadcast in April. Radio Suara Malioboro now broadcasts from Monday to Sunday 11.00 am to 11.00 pm, using a 100 watt transmitter. It can be heard in the area around Bantul, south of the Kraton and the area surrounding Malioboro Road. The station has links with the NGO Yayasan Lembaga Pengkajian Sosial Humana, which is a NGO that aims to integrate street kids into the broader community. A group of 10 street kids produce and present a one hour, daily talk show, in which they discuss conflicts with police, daily struggles and express themselves through music and drama. The station provides local street kids with a public voice.

Radio Suara Malioboro also broadcasts local un-recorded music. It records street musicians and underground artists and gives them airplay. It also gives wider exposure to local theatrical and musical events. For instance, on 23 July, the station recorded a local performance of an adaptation of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Nights Dream', produced in collaboration by dance companies from Yogyakarta, Bali and Japan.

Aris, 24, a technical assistant and broadcaster at Radio Suara Malioboro, explained, 'Radio Malioboro is radio for everyone. The station increases the sense of community in Malioboro. It acts as a voice that I think in the future will help to define that community and give it a sense of identity. It's a way that street kids can express themselves, so the rest of society is not blind to what they are about. It will hopefully act as a way to break down stereotypes about street kids, people listening can see, oh street kids can be creative too!'

Radio Petani Klaten is another community station. It was created earlier this year by a group of five farmers in the Klaten area, who were concerned with issues ranging from the political status of farmers to environmental issues and the over use of pesticides and chemicals. Radio Petani Klaten provides information to the farming community in Klaten, which is currently under constant pressure from the expansion of corporate farming interests. Their community radio strengthens the farmers' bargaining position.

Radio Petani Klaten plans to devote 40 per cent of broadcasts to information and the remainder to entertainment. It broadcasts talk back programs about organic farming and current political issues of concern to farmers. Its motto is 'close to society, caring about farmers'.

Government Regulation

However, all community radio stations throughout Indonesia are illegal. To gain a license to broadcast, a station must apply to the Departmen

t of Communication in Jakarta and pay a 300 million rupiah license fee up front. This is a long and costly process that usually requires a legal firm.

Consequently, stations go ahead and broadcast until the authorities enforce the law through a 'sweeping' of the station. Police have shut down numerous community radio stations in Yogyakarta and Bandung over the last six months.

Radio Budaya Minomartani in Sleman Yogyakarta, and Radio Petani (Farmers Radio) in Yogyakarta were shut down in 2002, after broadcasting for three months. A producer at Radio Minomartani explained, 'The police came here and wanted to take all the equipment, and I said the equipment does not belong to me, before you take it you need to ask all the members, all the people living in this area, they own this equipment, it is community property! So the police just left a letter and left.'

Prof Widhiatnyana, from the Department of Communications, told a community radio meeting in Bandung in March 2002, that community radio could ignite conflict between religious and racial groups in Indonesia. He stated, 'After the mosque community asks, the church community asks and so on, and then we have a problem.' The government also cites issues relating to the allocation of frequencies for its clamp down on community radio.

Not surprisingly, those involved with community radio in Yogyakarta strongly dispute the government's claims. 'Community radio does not promote disintegration in society. It is about unity and giving a voice to society, thus creating an open and intelligent society. A society that deals with conflict and issues in a verbal intelligent way. This concept has to enter the minds of the government,' said Pak Sukion from Radio Suara Petani Klaten.

In May 2002, Yogyakarta's community radio stations formed the Jaringan Radio Kommunitas Yogyakarta (Yogyakarta Community Radio Network - JKRY) to fight for the right for community radio to exist in Indonesia. This followed the formation of similar unions in Bandung and Jakarta. 'Because of the constant sweeping we have to be stubborn, persistent and obstinate, fight for the organization of community broadcasting to enter into the proposed DPR broadcasting law,' stated Dadang from Radio Warga Pasirluryu in Bandung.

Community radio in Indonesia is blossoming as a communications tool at the grass roots level. Community radio's fight to gain legal status mirrors society's growing wish to gain a political voice and to take control of their destiny.

Rebecca Henschke (becstar@muchomail.com) was an ACICIS student in 2002.

Inside Indonesia 72: Oct - Dec 2002