Political satire staying on the air as furor fizzles

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

It could have been fueled by an overreaction to fears of authoritarianism making a return, or fanned by eager-to-please businesspeople posturing before political leaders.

Whatever the reason, the brouhaha over the possible censoring of groundbreaking political satire show Republik Benar Benar Mabok (Republik BBM) died down Tuesday almost as quickly as it flared up.

Both broadcaster Indosiar and the government also stated nobody discussed banning the show.

Indosiar spokesman Gufron Sakaril said Republik BBM -- literally meaning "drunken republic" and borrowing its name from the acronym for fuel -- will continue to air the program.

"We will broadcast it as usual, and there is no intention to tone down the content. There has been no pressure whatsoever upon us to stop broadcasting the show," he told The Jakarta Post.

The show aired as usual Monday in its late-night time slot.

Meanwhile, Communication and Information Minister Sofyan Djalil said Tuesday the government was not interested in banning a show critical of the administration.

"There is no such thing," he told detik.com news portal.

Sofyan said the government had only asked TV stations to reduce the graphic content of their crime shows.

"What the government doesn't want is that our TV has become so brutal and created brutality among people," he said.

The issue was raised when Vice President Jusuf Kalla met Saturday with owners of seven private TV stations. As Kalla asked TV stations to reduce the graphic content of their shows, some of the executives present used the opportunity to slam the show, claiming it crossed the line in poking fun at the country's leaders and went against local cultural norms.

Republik BBM lampoons the country's leaders, down to their physical appearance and gestures. Played with gleeful irreverence by comedians Taufik Savalas and Kelik Pelipur Lara, the show has its president and vice president scrambling in heavy-handed attempts to find ministers for their fictitious Cabinet.

The cast, guests and studio audience also use the opportunity to criticize the running of the state in the 90-minute program.

The show's irreverent look at politics is groundbreaking in Indonesian television, whose stations conducted self-censorship during the Soeharto regime for fear of having their media license revoked.
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