Located in Southeast Asia, the Republic of Indonesia is the fifth most populated country in the world, with more than 260 million inhabitants. Indonesia is also a multi-ethnic country with approximately 1,340 ethnic groups and has the largest Muslim population in the world.
The media landscape cannot be separated from the experience and history of press freedom in the country. Media were once under tight control under President Soeharto, in the time known as the New Order Era (1966-1998). At that time, a special permit called Surat Ijin Usaha Penerbitan Pers (Press Publishing Business License - SIUPP) was necessary to establish a media outlet. The government was also able to censor and ban any media considered to be against the government. To be a journalist, a special permission was also required. After the reign of President Soeharto (post 1998), Indonesia gained some press freedom. As of today, there is no special permission to establish media outlets and become a journalist.
This resulted in the birth of a lot of media. By 2017, the Dewan Pers (Press Council) estimated that the number of media in Indonesia reached 47,000 outlets. Of these, as many as 2,000 are printed media, 1,166 radios, 674 televisions and 43,300 online media. The large amount of media is not followed by the level of media professionalism. Only a few healthy media are able to run regularly, to attract advertisement and to pay salaries. A verification of media companies conducted by the Press Council found that only 321 print media (about 16 percent) qualified as professional media. For online media, those recorded as a professional media only amounted to 211 outlets, 0.5 percent of online media available. As a conclusion, the condition of media in Indonesia varies, as there are both professional and non-professional media. By 2017, the Press Council estimated the number of media journalists in Indonesia to reach 100,000 people. Of these, according to the Press Council, only 11 percent can be categorised as professional journalists. Similar to media conditions, journalists in Indonesia are also diverse, there are professional, certified journalists and others who are in the profession without a specific education. The diversity is based on the ease of establishing the media or becoming a journalist.
Indonesia is experiencing the emergence of media conglomeration, with 12 major media groups. According to Nugroho et al (2012), in total, 12 media groups have 60 televisions, 317 print media, 66 radios and 9 online media. The largest media groups are Global Mediacomm (MNC), Jawa Pos Group, and Kompas Gramedia Group (KKG). MNC Group has 20 televisions, 20 radios, 7 print media and 1 online media. The Jawa Pos Group has 20 televisions, 171 print media and 1 online media. While KKG has 10 televisions, 12 radio, 88 print media and 2 online media.
According to data from the Ministry of Communications and Information (2015), as many as 86.7 percent of households have a television set. The same data also shows that as many as 89.6 percent of Indonesians regularly watch television whether for entertainment or information. Although Internet changed the media environment, television is still estimated to be the main medium for several upcoming years. The domination of television is inseparable from the large number of television audience and the capability of television in gaining advertisement. According to Nielsen, in 2017, the total advertisement expenditure of media (gross number, excluding discounts and promotions), reached IDR145.5tn (US$10.6bn), 80 percent of which was taken by television. Another traditional medium that still survives after the presence of Internet is radio. The total range of income from radio advertisement is only IDR2tn (US$14.3 million). Nevertheless, radio is relatively able to be operated with cheaper production costs compared to television and printed media and to easily adapt to the presence of Internet.
The traditional medium that underwent the greatest direct impact of Internet was the print press. In the last five years, tens of printed media stopped publishing. The reason was the high printing cost, while it was impossible for the media to increase the subscriptions. As more printed media stopped publishing, online media increased in numbers. Nevertheless, the presence of online media does not merely replace the existence of the printed media. There are two reasons why. First, online media have not been able to attract advertisement. According to Tirto.id (2018), the advertisement market of online media is still small. Most of the digital advertisement went to search engine advertising and social media for a total of US$888m. The digital advertisement benefits Facebook and Google, not other online media. Tirto.id interviewed leaders of several printed media who also have an online version and found that the main income is still generated by the printed versions, not the online ones. Second, the quality of journalism of online media is worse. In February 2017, in a report on online media, Tirto.id found that there was a difference in quality between the printed media and the online media. The writing for the printed media was conducted with the higher standards. On the contrary, online media relied more on the speed and the number of clicks from the visitors. Unsurprisingly news coverage from online media resulted as problematic because of the lack in fact checking. The future of online media in Indonesia is determined by the grade of ability in solving the above problems.
There is no exact data on the number of journalists in Indonesia, as it is not mandatory to register as a journalist. In 2017, the Press Council estimated 100,000 journalists.
The government is a regulator in the matters of administration and infrastructure of broadcasting, including the matters of licensing. In addition to being the regulator of broadcasting, the government also handles the regulation of digital media.