The government of Kazakhstan maintains a system of state subsidies for mass media, under which authorities pay outlets to cover selected topics in a particular way. These subsidies keep many struggling outlets afloat in a challenging operating environment. But they also distort coverage and hinder the development of healthy competition.
Under the system known as the “state order,” media outlets publish or broadcast material on certain topics that are selected by officials, who want such content to shape public opinion in ways that cast the government in a favorable light. In return, the participating outlets receive state funds.
The Ministry of Culture and Sport is responsible for placing material in the national media via the state order, while local executive authorities allocate funds to regional media outlets. There are currently about 3,000 media outlets of all sizes operating in Kazakhstan, and 95 percent of them receive government subsidies through the state order. For many outlets, these subsidies are a critical source of income.
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Anton Artemyev is the executive director of the Soros Foundation-Kazakhstan.