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Radio in Indonesia

A Brief History of Radio in Indonesia

While radio began to spread in Europe and the United States in the 1920s and 30s, radio broadcasts also existed in Indonesia prior to 1945. The official Indonesian radio station, Radio Republik Indonesia (or RRI) was established soon after the declaration of independence in 1945. RRI enjoyed a monopoly on the Indonesia radio waves until the dramatic political changeovers in 1965 when the army took over censorship of all media in the country.

After the installation of the Suharto-led government, all media remained under tight government censorship. Newspapers could be closed overnight if they printed stories that were considered “anti government” by the government censors. Official radios stations also broadcast under tight censorship, however this drove many illegal stations to be operated throughout the country. Although they had limited band reach, these illegal stations were mostly used for broadcasting the opinions of various religious and political groups. Foreign broadcasts that broadcast into Indonesian airwaves were often a source of friction amongst the governments. Many foreign journalists were banned and their visas revoked if it was thought they wrote stores seen to be detrimental to the Indonesian government.

Foreign Language Programming

Radio stations in Indonesia sometimes host overseas radio programs or news broadcasts. In order to compensate the radio station for the use of its frequency and airtime, foreign companies or broadcasting agencies will exchange technologies or update equipment in the Indonesian radio stations. This system does not facilitate monetary support for the Indonesian radio stations, but it does allow them to advance technologically in the fast moving media world. This arrangement allows listeners in Indonesia to hear radio broadcasts such as Voice of America and BBC News.

Some forward thinking Indonesian radio stations have begun local talk shows and news in foreign languages, featuring expatriates as the talk show host or DJ. They recognize that the large expatriate community as well as many of the younger generation in Indonesia enjoy listening to radio programs in English. As more corporate supporters jump on board to support these shows, a wider range of foreign language programming will become available to the expatriate community.

Listening to Radio Online

Many of the Indonesian radio stations are now offering their listeners streaming audio broadcasts, as is common with many radio stations overseas. By offering streaming audio the stations are extending their reach beyond the conventional broadcasting area ... to the world! In order to offer streaming audio, the radio station must have an agreement with a local ISP (most often Telkom - the government owned ISP) then the broadcast can be “streamed” to the ISP where it can be picked up by listeners’ worldwide.

If you have an internet or WiFi connection in Indonesia you can listen to radio stations from all over the world. The cost of listening to streaming audio will be covered by the amount that you are currently paying for your internet connection.

Listening Base in Indonesia

Radio has been the primary media choice to reach to the population of Indonesia, as many families in Indonesia cannot afford to purchase a TV. The low literacy rate in the provinces due to low education level sand the high cost of printed materials and books also makes radio a key method for spreading information throughout the archipelago.

Support of Radio

Just as in elsewhere in the world, privately owned radio stations in Indonesia are funded by advertising. Advertising is sold to clients based on the popularity of the radio show and the time frame in which it is broadcast. Because there is no way to measure accurately how many people are listening to a radio show at any one time, radio stations rely on independent surveys done by private companies to tell them their station’s popularity, their listeners age and income status and peak listening times of audiences.

Prime times of radio programming overseas is often from 7-9:00 am and again from 4-6:00pm when most people are commuting to and from their offices. Because of the heavy traffic situation in most Indonesian cities the “prime time” of radio broadcasting is much longer as people are spending more time in their daily commutes stuck in traffic jams. Prime time is considered from 6:00-10:00am and again from 3-7:00pm. Radio stations offer this time slot as one of the most effective times to reach the greatest listening audience and therefore it is often the most expensive.

Broadcast Bands

Because of its susceptibility to atmospheric interference and generally lower-fidelity sound, AM broadcasting is better suited to talk radio and news programming, while music radio and public radio mostly shifted to FM broadcasting in the late 1960s and 1970s. Throughout the world, the broadcast band of FM radio is 87.5-108.5 MHz. The frequency of an FM broadcast station (more strictly its assigned nominal center frequency) is usually an exact multiple of 100 kHz.

Because of this limitation of the frequency that is assigned to radio this leads to a limit of how many “official” radio stations a country can have. Indonesia is no exception. In 1990 there were only 28 official stations, however now in Jakarta and its surrounding areas there are now 68 stations in operation. At this time the government is not issuing new permits for FM radio stations as the frequencies in Indonesia are considered “full”. The government also controls the reach of the signal that a station can send to control overlapping of broadcasts into other stations’ territories.

What is AM AND FM?

AM broadcast radio sends music and voice in the Medium Frequency (MF—0.300 MHz to 3 MHz) radio spectrum. AM radio uses amplitude modulation, in which louder sounds at the microphone causes wider fluctuations in the transmitter power while the transmitter frequency remains unchanged. Transmissions are affected by static because lightning and other sources of radio add their radio waves to the ones from the transmitter.

FM radio sends music and voice, with higher fidelity than AM radio. FM is transmitted in the Very High Frequency (VHF—30 MHz to 300 MHz) radio spectrum. Another effect is that shorter VHF radio waves act more like light, traveling in straight lines; hence the reception range is generally limited to about 50-100 miles. FM receivers are relatively immune to lightning and spark interference. In the early 1970 radio started to move towards broadcasting on FM frequencies, as it was able give better sound quality and depth of sound.

So, try turning on your radio when you’re out driving in Indonesia’s infamous traffic. Listen to some local music, try to improve your Bahasa Indonesia by listening to the local DJs and talk shows … and keep your ears open for that rare foreign language broadcast!

Last updated May 13, 2014