Kazakhstan: Foreign TV Forced to Register In-Country
Starting from next year, international television stations wishing to broadcast in Kazakhstan will have to register a representative inside the country, under new rules announced this week by Information and Communications Minister Dauren Abayev.
The rules are being introduced to even the playing field for local broadcasters, who complain at having to compete with foreign rivals unbridled by domestic legislation.
Kazakhstan’s authorities have long been waging a rearguard battle against popular international television broadcasters available to local viewers through cable packages. In July, laws came into force requiring foreign television stations to black out their advertising output — a measure intended to protect local broadcasters’ ad revenue. That law had been adopted in October 2015 and was due to take effect the following January, but its implementation was delayed amid protests from cable operators, who complained they lacked the technical wherewithal to enforce the rule.
Foreign content dominates the airwaves in Kazakhstan. As Abayev has pointed out, cable companies currently air up to 150 channels each, of which around 70 percent are foreign. They are, however, necessarily exempt from multiple domestic restrictions, such as those requiring a certain amount of content to be in the Kazakh language and on what constitutes suitable advertising material. Many channels advertise goods and services not registered and licensed in Kazakhstan, and some of the advertisements, such as those for alcohol, are in outright breach of broadcasting regulations.
“Domestic channels have failed to receive a significant amount of revenue from the advertising market,” Abayev wrote on his Facebook account. “Even though this money could have substantially improved the state of Kazakhstani television, gone toward the development of infrastructure, production of quality Kazakhstani programs, films, soap operas and light entertainment. I am certain that our policies will be understood and supported by Kazakhstanis and will yield positive results in the near future.”
The problem, however, is that if the policy ends with many channels being pushed off cable packages, more viewers will resort to installing satellite dishes to amplify their viewing options. Channels provided through that platform will necessarily not be subject to Kazakhstani legislation.
Abayev has said that the government is working on measures, including through legislation, to enable domestic broadcasters to air more foreign programming to ensure viewers do not resort to satellite dishes.