The Ugly Truth about Indonesian Current Affairs Programme: Dealership-based E-commerce, an Innovation or a Drawback?

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My dream that someday Indonesia will have a public service-oriented broadcaster, similar to BBC,  is seemed to be unlikely in the near future. The chances are television companies or media programmers in Indonesia chose to follow the common trend by dumbing-down their programme contents amidst the strong pressure of commercialisation. Regardless the ethos of a television company, profit-concern apparently becomes a determining factor in programming policy. The heading of this article is a reflection that demonstrates this notion.

Albeit considered as a less serious genre, talk-show is classified as current affair programme. In a nutshell, current affair functions as a pseudo-news. It is a reality captured in a camera lens and dialogue. A talk-show programmer is allowed to choose an angle or to adjust frames. However, he’s not permitted to bury evidence. As a pseudo-news, the making process of a talk-show should consider the rules of the games in producing a news programme. One of the core principles of the games is compliant with impartiality. Besides, Indonesian regulations on broadcasting No. 32/2003 mandates national television industry to implement the idea of media’s social responsibility. It means that catering public with entertainment is not the sole purpose of the television companies. To the contrary, they also bear the normative duty, which is to inform and to educate, as a result of its position as the fourth estate in the structural realm. However, a particular morning talk-show broadcasted by a national television challenges the rule of the games. What makes this issue even more thought-provoking is that the national television company, so-called TV One, claims to be different from other mediocre television companies.

How can it be problematic? Let’s take a look at one of its news affiliated morning programmes, Coffee Break. In one episode of Coffee Break, the morning talk-show featured a dealership e-commerce promotor in Indonesia, My Big Mall. In the 60-minutes current affair programme, TV One as broadcaster allowed its media crew to overlook the importance of impartiality by performing a contrived dialogue. The text (delivered by presenter), the context, and the pretext of the first and subsequent segments contained nothing but persuasion that lure Indonesian public to become consumptive audience. The persuasion is escalated into a higher level when the talk-show inserted a montage of My Big Mall’s successful stories in facilitating private individuals, as opposed to established businessmen, to be online entrepreneurs. Until the talk-show moved to the next topic, there was no discussion pertaining to precautions in initiating e-commerce business, particularly in the era of digitalisation.

Time restrain that haunts every live television programme should not be an excuse to negate the risks in digitally-based joint venture. Three segments of fifteen minutes-talk concerning e-commerce must spare, at least a minute, for a text that functions as catalyst in exposing the pros and cons on the topic discussed. In the ideal model of talk-show as a current affair programme, viewers have access to a tailored but honest sentences that stimulate their critical thinking. Consequently, viewers appear as public in the equation of media and democratic society, who are capable of making a well-informed judgement. In the context of talk show as current affair, audience’s critical questions are supposedly accommodated by presenters who have the leverage to ask tough questions to their guest speakers. In the case of Coffee Break featuring My Big Mall, the talk-show moderators should have mentioned such questions that challenge the arguments made by the My Big Mall promotor who claims that dealership e-commerce is a solution to the conventional retail business. Given the shift of market preferences to online shopping, the traditional outlets compound in an actual mall is rather obsolete and even contradicts the rapid change in economy and information technology. At a glance, it looks fascinating. Picturing oneself owning a business in this lucrative digital era is a strong motivation. However, scrutinising the core premise of the concept: everyone can be a businessman, to some extent, prompted curiosities. Why? let suppose that everyone does become businessmen in retail. It means that the only purpose of all professionals in the social structure is to simply sell goods. In this condition, a gap within the Gramsci’s theory on structuralism occurs, which means a certain social stratum cannot take the responsibility to be labours, earning monthly wage so that economy will provide demand in the matrix.

If the narrative above is not a problem, let’s move to the other one. In the state wherein each individual has equal access to goods as a result of becoming business owners, the classic formula of economics which promulgates the idea; selling equals demand plus supply is negated. One could argue that in this situation, a supply can still function as a demand. In other words, a retailer can sell its signature product to another retailer with different speciality. Thus, the idea of selling is completed. It is true, nevertheless, this situation doesn’t complete the core purpose of why money is invented and neglects the only reason why humanity progresses from bartering to monetary transaction. This is not a zero sum game or even futuristic. In the state wherein each layers of society becomes its own income-generators by selling goods is actually a tricky situation because, once again, there is no space in the social structure in which individuals become customers. Let’s not confusing the term customer with the private individuals affiliated to their e-commerce start-ups, but rather pointing to those who work as executives, employees or professionals. The reason why the balance between traders and executives is important is to keep the real value of money as the prominent currency for financial transaction. Also, to avoid money from merely function as assets, normative measure on someone’s wealth. Should the balance between the two sectors fail, and in the end, everyone owns a start-up and become businessman, it is worth-inquiring whether e-commerce is an innovation or actually a hidden step back which draw us back to the transaction method of exchanging goods.

Hollywood caters for our mind with pleasures and extravagance. Despite being emotional and self-indulging, entertainment allows manipulation. Meanwhile, current affairs programme are supposed to be delivered as they are. According to Asa Berger on the nature of television genres, current affairs completes a high level of actuality and a low doses of persuasion. Thus, regardless the topic, the content should be produced with a maximum attention to objectivity. Meanwhile being objective means being impartial in providing the facts. The texts used by a good quality of talk-show either expose audience with reality straight-forward or stimulate audience’s mind by making them see the both sides of a topic discussed. Rhetorical dialogue for the pursuit of personal gain, as practiced by Coffee Break, is no difference with leading audience to think that infotainment or gossips is trustworthy. For this reason, TV One clearly doesn’t play the media’s normative role as the gatekeeper from which audience anchor their ignorance about digital e-commerce. In the contrary, TV one plays the creativity card by using the concept of talk show to market a certain type of economic goods wherein all information communicated leads Indonesian audience nowhere other than to become a mere commodity, the robotic entity who simply receiving information without ability to analyse the pros and cons of a message.

The program type mentioned above could be beneficial for the television company’s revenue and might give a new nuance to Indonesian television programming landscape. However, it deprives the audience’s right to be well-informed in managing their wealth. The absence of tough questions in Coffee Break was covered with applying a value added strategy to the televised promotion, such as discounts for the 10 easily-manipulated viewers. Unfortunately, when people are told lies frequently or cornered towards a time constraint situation, they will consume the lies as their reality. Far more worse, to making a snap judgement and wrong decision. If TV One wants to be different from other television companies, the ugly truth of business should not be the barrier to educate Indonesian audience. Even within the frame of a talk-show.

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