Theses Doctoral

How Digital Television is Colonizing Indonesia

Citra, Diani

Indonesian broadcasters are less than enthused about switching from an analog signal to digital terrestrial television (DTT). The nation’s telecommunications industry appears mostly indifferent, consumers are reluctant to spend money on the necessary new equipment, and electronics producers are pessimistic about the new market. Despite the fact that few stakeholders are in support of this transition, the Indonesian government is moving forward on DTT. Why could this be?
Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, with more than 16,000 islands and a diverse geography that complicates the implementation of new broadcast and telecommunications infrastructure. By taking it as a case study, this project explains why, despite broad national ambivalence, high costs, and uncertain benefits, a developing country might still find itself accepting an externally imposed standard.
Primary research questions include: What incentivizes nations to accept new technological standards when domestic enthusiasm is sparse? How do foreign interests and a fear of isolation from an “inevitable” global technofuture reshape civic priorities? Which segments of society are legitimized in this process, and which are ignored?
The processes at play are nuanced. Building on the scholarship of Grewal (2008), this dissertation contends that Indonesia’s decision to transition to DTT is understood as neither entirely voluntary nor entirely coerced. Rather, it is the result of a complex web of power plays and rhetorical frames. International bodies seek to impose a universal broadcast standard even in countries where it is counterproductive as certain domestic corporations attempt to influence the process in order to maintain and consolidate their dominance. At the same time, prevailing narratives of “necessity” and “inevitability” obscure policy choices better suited to the Indonesian situation, and hide the reality that DTT is not only a technological issue, but a social one as well.

Geographic Areas


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2024-04-30.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
John, Richard R.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 3, 2019