Where he went Salah: TVRI director fired for ‘violating national identity’ by acquiring Premier League broadcast rights

Former TVRI president director Helmy Yahya. Photo: Instagram/helmyyahya
Former TVRI president director Helmy Yahya. Photo: Instagram/helmyyahya

The supervisory board of state-owned television network TVRI said that its former president director, Helmy Yahya, was sacked for his decision to broadcast the English Premier League, which the board said was at odds with the public broadcaster’s mission to promote Indonesia’s national identity. 

Helmy was dismissed over the weekend, and his ousting attracted a great deal of controversy when he disclosed in a press conference that he was fired by TVRI’s supervisory board for buying rights to broadcast the Premier League, arguably the world’s most popular soccer competition. The broadcast rights were awarded to TVRI last year for the 2019/2020 season.

The board gave their side of the story yesterday during a hearing with Commission I of the House of Representatives (DPR), which oversees state matters related to communication.

“TVRI’s main task and function according to its vision and mission is to be a public broadcaster. We are not a private [company], so the most important for us are education, identity, and becoming the nation’s unifying media. Those are the priorities for our programs. The reality is we are watching the Premier League instead,” TVRI supervisory board chief Arief Hidayat Thamrin said during the hearing, as quoted by Liputan 6.

Arief conceded that soccer-crazed Indonesians are obsessed with the Premier League. However, he expressed concern over TVRI’s current programming lineup consisting of numerous foreign programs, which were acquired since Helmy took charge of the station in order to boost viewership.

“[Premier League] probably has many fans here. There are Discovery Channel [programs], where we watch crocodiles in Africa, even though shows about Indonesian crocodiles are probably better. Then, we also have many foreign film broadcasts, some are paid, some are free,” Arief explained.

Arief added that Helmy used the state budget (APBN) to pay for the acquisition of a number of broadcast rights for foreign programs. 

Another member of the supervisory board, Pamungkas Trishadiatmoko, said that TVRI owes about IDR69 billion (US$5.05 million) for the Premier League broadcasting rights and alleged that Helmy never gained approval from the board regarding this decision. 

It appears to be “he said, she said” dispute for now, as Helmy had previously claimed to have informed the board of his purchase. 

Helmy Yahya, now 56, rose to fame as a TV host in the 2000s and was dubbed the “King of Quizzes” due to numerous quiz shows he’d created and hosted.

Helmy established a broadcasting school in 2009 and was appointed TVRI’s president director in 2017. He has been credited with rejuvenating the floundering public broadcaster to become more relevant with the young audience, massively boosting ratings in the process.


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