Diversity of Media=Diversity of Content?


Anang Sujoko, Brawijaya University 

In Indonesia, after the resignation of President Soeharto (1998), the freedom of expression has encouraged the media development. The mass media, including print media and broadcasting media, has significantly grown. For instance, the number of private television stations went up from two stations in 1998 to 11 national commercial network stations and hundreds of local commercial TV stations (Davis 2013). In addition, there are currently one thousand print media (newspaper, tabloid, and magazine) with 25 million copies.

In Indonesia, mainstream media, including print and broadcasting, play the important role in shaping or directing Indonesians’ points of view and life. This article briefly reviews the importance of media and how the media works,  and investigates whether diversity of media leads to diversity of content.

The importance of media

Media affect human’s life through several ways. First, the existence of national commercial television broadcasting stations contributes to the decrease of content diversity. Lippmann (1921) suggests that the world outside is the picture in our heads. What people read, listen, or watch  may influence or affect how they think and behave.

According to the agenda setting theory, media contents make people aware or not aware of certain issues (Shaw, 1979) and talk what media publish on daily basis (Fisher, 2011). Furthermore, media can drive policy making process (Wilkerson and Green-Pederson, 2006). The above significant roles of media position media as a part of human life.

Unfortunately media is not only established to inform, persuade and deliver information to public, but also to be a business venture.. They might have certain interests. Therefore, understanding of how the media works is important.

How the media works?

Media content is constructed and influenced by some factors, including human interests, system, and competition. Shoemaker and Reese (1996) describe five levels, namelyindividual, media routine, organisation, extra-media, and ideology, which can affect the media content.


Figure 1. Shoemaker and Reese’s hierarchy of influence model (1996)


The above figure shows that many interests compose the content of the media. Here, as an institution, media can play a ‘switcher’ role.  Sudibyo (2000) reveals that economic and political issues are essential factors for the media in considering how they produce news and programs. Famously said by Castells (2009),  “every program is entertainment”. Castells (2009) describes that the media is a space where competing political and social actors decide power relationships.

Diversity of media and diversity of content

The important question is whether the diversity of media means the diversity of content.

Extra media forces in Shoemaker and Reese’s model (1996) can be described as media competition. How the mass media competes to attract as many audiences as possible become an important issue in media business.

The endorsement of Indonesian broadcasting law 32/2002 has encouraged the development of media with some expectations that the diversity of their content will improve. Despite growing number of media networks, in reality the media tends to publish similar content in their programs. They even produce similar programs which are popular in other stations.

McQuail (1992) reveals that the plurality of media does not guarantee the diversity of content. Some studies on media content show that different media tend to produce and broadcast similar content (Picard, 1998). According to Lim (2011) the similarity of content in various media  happens because of media networking and concentrated-ownership. As an industry, the media have to generate revenue to cover the high production cost. By creating networked media and concentrated-ownership, firstly, the media can reach many audiences in different geographical locations. Secondly, one program can be broadcasted by different media in the same network. Finally, media business requires high investment and as a consequence, only limited number of big investors can invest in this business leading concentrated-ownership of media networks.



Some factors in different levels of hierarchy influence how media content is produced. Organizational factors play an important role in managing other factors in order to win media business competition. Within the political and economic context, the existence of media (organization) can create ‘power-making space’.

The development of mass media in Indonesia after the reformation era has lead to competition between media institutions benefiting viewers through more varieties of programs and news.However, this development has not neccessarily lead to diversification of media ownership creating limited media networks and concentrated-ownership.  Economic issues seem to be a significant factor in explaining the similarity of media content.


 About the author:

Anang Sujoko is a Lecturer at Brawijaya University in East Java, Indonesia. He is completing his Doctor in Communication study at University of South Australia. 



Castells, M 2009, Communication power, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Davis, AG 2013, “National television network in Indonesia”, accessed 5 April 2013, <http://www.asiawaves.net/indonesia-tv.htm&gt;.

Fisher, J,R., 2011, “Agenda Setting Theory”, accessed at 14 Feb, 2013, <http://www.fisherhouse.com/courses/ agenda_setting.pdf.>

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Filed under Culture, Democracy, Investment, PPIA academic discussion, Social media

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