Ross on Metro TV's Chinese-language news service, Xin Wen.
The Metro TV Chinese-language news reported on the APEC conference in Sydney on its morning news. What did Metro show the Indonesian viewers? None other than the President of Red China making his speech. But Indonesia's own President, SBY, attended that gathering.
Jakarta's Metro TV is quite a young channel, which has English-language news, broadcast on Friday evening, repeated on Saturday morning and again on Sunday evening, so it has a lot of foreign viewers. It is owned by a leading Golkar Party magnate, who by odd coincidence is often featured on its news, but that is not a big deal. What I'd like to look at today is its Chinese-language news service.
The Chinese minority here in Indonesia is disproportionately prosperous (probably due to their work ethic) although many of them are just as poor as pribumi (native) Indonesians, many of whom nevertheless harbour prejudices against them. They (the Chinese) have had a hard time in the past, most recently in 1998, when looting, rape and murder were the lot of many in the riots.
Many of them also made a big mistake in the Fifties and Sixties by lining up with the nasty PKI, Communist Party of Indonesia, though when Suharto squashed that threat, he himself chose to make friends with numerous Chinese tycoons. Many good Chinese, of course, were supportive of the nationalist Kuo Min Tang until the red-tilting Sukarno suppressed the anti-Communist Chinese community back in the early 1960s.
That's all just history now, of course, and the official line is that everybody's welcome, and Chinese festivals, like their New Year, are given full approval for public celebrations. Equally, the Mandarin language is no longer forbidden. And Metro thus has a special news in Chinese just after the English news in the morning, called Metro Xin Wen, which is described as:
Program berita setengah jam yang disajikan dalam bahasa Mandarin dan lengkap dengan informasi yang berhubungan dengan masyarakat Tionghoa, seperti berita bisnis, ekonomi, sosial dan budaya. (News in Mandarin with information of interest to Chinese Indonesians, like business, economy, social and cultural affairs.)
Tayang setiap hari pada pukul: 07.05-07.30 WIB. (Every day from 7.05am to 7.30am.)
Although most of us can't follow it, we can identify the news items included, and that is a revealing activity.
While Metro TV's English news comprises mostly things that are happening here, and major world events, in other words the same more or less as the content of the main Indonesian news programmes, plus a few touristy things or an expat who's taken up Javanese musical instruments, the Chinese news seems to go out of its way to emphasise that these Indonesian citizens have more in common with foreign countries where Chinese is the mother tongue. Much of it focuses on happenings in Red China, some in Taiwan and some in Singapore. Why does Metro do this? If it regards Chinese-speaking Indonesians as 100% Indonesian, it should surely be presenting them with news of their own country in their minority language? But no, it doesn't, not fully.
This sort of presentation encourages pribumi to think of their fellow-citizens as foreign-orientated, and may encourage some of the minority to do the same.
I don't actually believe this is a deliberate policy on Metro's part, but I do think it betrays a mind-set whereby the Chinese-speakers are still regarded as resident aliens. Western expats are almost all just that, no matter how long they live here. They work and play but have no real rights, nor do they expect any. Chinese-speaking Indonesians, one hopes, are much more than that. They are full citizens, not foreign overspill floating in the multitudinous archipelago. Metro News should act accordingly. Give them their own country's news, at least as much local content as English-speakers get.
Has anyone else thought about this?
Incidentally, I'm commenting on Indonesia but am not blind to my own country's short-comings, for the same criticism can be levelled at western media which broadcast programmes in Asian languages for immigrants and their offspring in Britain, thus obstructing the assimilation process which is the duty of all immigrants, (being able to enjoy TV is a splendid incentive to learn English quickly, just as I can now laugh at Tukul and Republik Mimpi) and Spanish-language programmes in the USA, where the Hispanic minority has shown a singular reluctance to adapt to their chosen homeland by learning its language.
Nor am I criticizing programmes designed to teach immigrants their new language - that's imperative! And if some want to have programmes to keep their own culture in order, eventually, to go home, residing in the US or UK as mere guest-workers, for example the Cubans who hope to return to a Free Cuba when that old swine Castro kicks the bucket, then that's all very well. (I know many Cubans are now American citizens, but many others still have hopes of liberating their homeland and good luck and Godspeed to those patriots!)
But some Hispanics, in the USA at least, are actually demanding bilingualism as official policy. In Britain, and Canada, vast sums are wasted on official forms in a variety of languages because so many have not taken the trouble to do what they should have done before contemplating migration. That is surely unacceptable. Even guest-workers like me make it a first priority in Indonesia to learn as much Bahasa Indonesia as possible, and we have no aspirations to become citizens. When in Rome, do as the Romans do!