Television and National Transformation: Indonesia Goes Digital

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

As part of the country’s increasing digitalization, Indonesia has pulled the plug on analog television broadcasting and is rolling out digital TV. Muhammad Azka Prasetya of GreenUbanomia writes about the challenges of implementing this ambitious but belated policy.

Television and National Transformation: Indonesia Goes Digital

Buying a box in Bandung: Compared to analog broadcasts, digital TV offers advantages including better audio and visual quality (Credit: ardiwebs /

After over 60 years, Indonesia officially ended analog television broadcasting in 2022, finally entering the digital era. While the migration was seven years late (the country was one of the last in Southeast Asia to do so), this was a major milestone in the nation’s technological progress.

Indonesia has been pursuing the goal of adopting digital TV since its early years. The efforts to switch can be traced back to 2007, the year in which digital TV was launched in the country. Two television stations launched a trial in 2009. The shift is a part of Indonesia’s digital transformation, with the government mandating the migration to digital terrestrial broadcast no later than November 2, 2022. 

The analog switch-off (ASO) itself was initiated on April 30, 2022, when four serviced areas (Riau-4, East Nusa Tenggara-3, East Nusa Tenggara-4, and West Papua-4 migrated to digital. The Greater Jakarta (Jabodetabek) areas commenced ASO on November 3 last year.

The big switch

Compared to analog broadcasts, digital TV offers advantages including better audio and visual quality. It also offers a higher number of television channels available, allowing audiences to enjoy a greater variety of television content. Due to the larger frequency spectrum on digital TV, it can be used to meet the needs of both community and public broadcasting, providing room for diversity of content, perspectives and ownership.

For the government, migrating to digital TV is deemed important as it will support the realization of digital dividends by using the available range of frequencies after analog TV broadcasting is disabled. Creating digital dividends will bring benefits such as increasing internet reach to broader areas and faster internet access. On the other hand, unused frequencies can be repurposed to provide 5G networks and communication lines for emergency broadcasts, leading to better disaster preparedness and response measures. 

A survey conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in 2020 showed that the switch to digital TV switch could lead to a dividend worth US$39.9 billion by 2026 in the form of new business, jobs and revenue from taxes. A 2017 study previously indicated that Indonesia could enjoy a multiplier effect should the nation divert its digital dividends to cellular telecommunications. The digital TV policy could also push domestic broadcasting businesses to be more competitive in adopting new technology and developing multichannel broadcasts.

The main challenges

A key obstacle in the implementation of Indonesia's digitally-related policies has always been the limited readiness of the public to adopt digital lifestyles. Many Indonesians simply cannot afford devices needed to support the technology. A survey showed only 39 percent of residents in 11 cities were ready for digital broadcasts as of September 2022. The same survey confirmed the social class differential in readiness for digital TV, with high-income citizens most prepared and the middle and lower tiers much less so.

Another impediment is the resistance from television broadcasters. Protests against the migration of television broadcasts still take place because companies invested a lot in analog and are unwilling to do the same to upgrade. Some of them also believe that migration to digital TV will prevent poor households from enjoying television broadcasts as not all members of the population are able to afford the necessary equipment.

Watching a show in Sumba: Poor households may not be able to afford the necessary equipment to support digital TV (Credit: Asian Development Bank)

Watching a show in Sumba: Poor households may not be able to afford the necessary equipment to support digital TV (Credit: Asian Development Bank)

The affordability problem

To run a digital broadcast, a set-top box (STB) is needed to convert a digital signal into analog ones allowing digital terrestrial broadcasts to run on conventional television. The government has distributed well over a million STBs to households. In the Jabodetabek (Greater Jakarta) area, the distribution has reached 98 percent of households or about half a million units.   

According to the Ministry of Social's Integrated Social Welfare Data (DTKS), there are 7.9 million poor households, of which 6.7 million still own analog equipment. Poor households are concerned about the high price of STBs, worsened by the surging demand for STBs as the termination of analog broadcast neared.       

While poor households may have difficulty accessing STBs, they do have other options for accessing digital television. Devices such as digital TVs and cell phones that are capable of streaming can be used to access digital terrestrial broadcasts.

Patchy rollout

According to BBC Indonesia, there are 230 districts and cities that have migrated from analog to digital broadcasts. In the case of Greater Jakarta, the analog broadcast was switched off after nearly 100 percent of households had already received and installed STBs. As many as 292 areas have not migrated to digital TV yet due because the distribution of STB units is below target. The Ministry of Telecommunication and Informatics (Kominfo) has stated that assistance for acquiring an STB is limited to extremely poor households (RTM) listed in Ministry of Social Affairs’ Social Welfare Integrated Data (DTKS) register. This has raised questions about data usage – whether the government should use the list of people receiving social assistance in determining whom to provide with an STB. The government does not have a reliable list of citizens who already have digital TV equipment.

Resistance from private television broadcasters

Several private television broadcasters had been protesting against the ASO policy even before its implementation. The private firms are reluctant to make the huge investments necessary for the shift. Some have argued that the policy is harmful to the public, given that the distribution of digital TV equipment is uneven across the country. The opposition has exacerbated the patchy STB and digital equipment distribution as some broadcasters have not been enthusiastic about the rollout.

Digital migration is unavoidable

As a part of Indonesia’s digital transformation, whether slow or fast, migration from analog to digital television broadcasts is unavoidable. ASO marks a new era for the country’s broadcasting industry, leading to the adoption of cutting-edge technology that can carry quality television content.

Goodbye to analog, November 2, 2022: The full shift to digital is expected to lead to the expansion of Indonesian TV content and a significant rise in quality (Credit: Kominfo)

Goodbye to analog, November 2, 2022: The full shift to digital is expected to lead to the expansion of Indonesian TV content and a significant rise in quality (Credit: Kominfo)

As the switch to digital TV is a major nationwide program, the government must ensure that the distribution of digital broadcasts is even and equal. This could be realized by putting together and using a valid and accurate database of people who are eligible to receive digital TV equipment. Measures are needed to provide support for poor households eligible for STB assistance. Mass media enterprises can also help. Disseminating knowledge and information about digital broadcasts would spread awareness, increasing support for the government’s efforts to use digital broadcast technology to improve people’s lives.

Opinions expressed in articles published by AsiaGlobal Online reflect only those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of AsiaGlobal Online or the Asia Global Institute


Muhammad Azka Prasetya

Muhammad Azka Prasetya


Muhammad Azka Prasetya is the content manager of the GreenUrbanomia marketplace website, based in Indonesia. From 2017 to 2019, he was an expert analyst in the office of the coordinating minister for economic affairs of the Republic of Indonesia.

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