Prabowo has TV advantage over Joko
IF INDONESIA'S presidential election was to be decided by favourable coverage on its television channels, former general Prabowo Subianto would be in the driver's seat and front runner Joko "Jokowi" Widodo would trail far behind.
Mr Joko is ahead in opinion polls but Mr Prabowo is catching up, with less than a month to go before the July 9 election, according to surveys.
But the surveys say about 40 per cent of the electorate is undecided and television channels could decide, or at least heavily influence, who will lead the world's third-largest democracy for the next five years.
"The real war is to win the 41 per cent of voters that are still undecided. In this case, the role of the media will be crucial," said Amir Effendi Siregar, the head of pr2media, a private media watchdog group.
The viewership numbers heavily favour Mr Prabowo - two media moguls who control nearly half of Indonesia's TV audience are firmly with the former special forces chief.
Aburizal Bakrie, the head of the Golkar party which has thrown its weight behind Mr Prabowo, owns media group PT Visi Media Asia and its two free-to-air nationwide television stations, ANTV and TVOne.
Hary Tanoesoedibjo, a member of Mr Prabowo's inner circle of advisers, owns the Media Nusantara Citra group and its three national TV stations RCTI, MNCTV and Global TV.
Mr Joko is backed by media tycoon Surya Paloh, chairman of the small National Democrat party that is part of his alliance, and owner of leading news channel MetroTV.
Mr Paloh's MetroTV, however, has just 3 per cent of the country's viewership, compared to 44 per cent for the five stations that are pro-Prabowo, according to Nielsen Indonesia.
"It is definitely having an impact on the election. In terms of TV stations, Prabowo's camp has much more than Jokowi's," said Tobias Basuki, a political analyst at think-tank CSIS. "We can't say exactly how much of an impact it will have, but the election (media watchdog) is not able to force TV stations to be objective."