Uzbekistan to Get a Rolling News Channel
Uzbekistan is to get its own 24-hour rolling news channel.
In the wake of criticism from President Shavkat Mirziyoyev about the standard of news reporting on state television, plans are now in place for the creation of Ozbekistan-24, which will broadcast day and night.
On May 4, Gazeta.uz cited a presidential decree ordering the creation of the station as saying its goal would be to provide the public with “objective and reliable information” and “real-time coverage of important events in politics, security, economy, culture, science and sport, at home and abroad.”
Mirziyoyev registered his gripes about the quality of domestic news production at a March 30 government meeting, when he complained that “the time for hooray patriotism has passed and we should have critical and analytical content on our televisions, so that viewers might instead await TV shows with impatience.” The entire outburst was itself aired on television.
On April 3, Babur Alikhanov, a veteran industry insider with a background working for US television companies and the BBC, was appointed deputy chairman of the national broadcasting company in charge of news output. The following day, the main news bulletin was on a trial basis broadcast live to air — a novelty that some have interpreted as a potential move to the loosening of the current suffocating censorship prevailing in the country.
What is particularly significant about the creation of Ozbekistan-24 is that it will be staffed with its own foreign correspondents — a first for any news outlet in Uzbekistan since independence. The plan is for the station to have a 251-strong staff.
Mirziyoyev has reserved his bitterest criticism for Ahborot, the country’s main television news program.
Ahborot is aired daily in Uzbek and Russian. The Sunday edition is slightly longer and includes more analytical content, although the goal of that editorial output has typically been to praise the government and the president. The format is essentially an exact copy of Vremya, a news program dating back to Soviet times that remains a perennial on Russian television today.
But Ozbekistan-24 too appears to be modeled on a Russian product. Namely, the 24-hour news channel Rossiya-24. The Russian news channel creates content that is heavily supportive of the Kremlin and relentlessly critical of the West in all its guises.
Time will tell if the creation of Uzbekistan’s new channel is or is not a matter of form over content.