Fewer soaps, more news, says TV viewers
Hera Diani, The Jakarta Post
When criticized for the over-the-top soap operas, invasive gossip shows and bloody crime programs that dominate their schedules, most TV stations protest their innocence by claiming they only give the people what they want.
But if the results of a new survey are to be believed, the stations will have to find either a new excuse or new programs. According to the survey, TV viewers want fewer soap operas, or sinetron, and more general news programs, socially themed reality shows and children's programs.
The survey was released Tuesday by AGB Nielsen Media Research, part of the AC Nielsen research institute, which also regularly releases the TV ratings on which local stations rely.
For the survey, 500 respondents in nine large cities across Indonesia were interviewed by telephone between June 27 and July 2.
According to the results, 40.7 percent wanted fewer drama series, 48.6 percent fewer "mystical religious" shows and 43.3 percent asked for less gossip shows, or infotainment programs.
A majority of respondents, or 61.8 percent, asked for more reality shows with social themes, 60.4 percent wanted more general news programs and 54.5 said they wanted to see more children's programs.
The majority of respondents agreed that gossip shows (73.3 percent), drama series (64.1 percent) and religious series (59.6 percent) are not educational.
Forty-eight percent of survey respondents said religious programs were not entertaining, and 61.8 percent said soap operas were too violence.
While only 21.3 percent of respondents said they wanted to see fewer crime shows on TV, 61.1 percent said such shows were not entertaining and 59.5 percent had problems with the shows' graphic depiction of violence.
Infotainment programs remain popular, despite recently coming under attack by the country's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, which labeled them haram, or forbidden under Islam, for publicly airing the "dirty laundry" of celebrities.
Of the female respondents in the survey, 74.1 said they liked gossip shows, though some said they thought there should be fewer of them on TV.
Hellen Katherina, AGB Nielsen Media Research's associate director for marketing and client services, said it was important to underline that even shows with high ratings were not necessarily appreciated by viewers.
"A high rating could just mean that there was nothing better for viewers to watch since nearly all TV stations air similar programs.
"So we need to be careful with the 'ratings trap', as it's only a quantitative measure," she said.
TV stations, however, say ratings are the only available measurement for programs, and that advertisers decide where to place their commercials based on these ratings.
This has contributed to stations putting out schedules that are difficult to tell apart, as they chase advertising revenue with proven ratings winners.