The local media industry has been on a steady course of private sector development over the past 20 years, with cable and satellite television as well as the internet becoming increasingly sophisticated. The media industry has struggled to thrive economically, especially during the global financial crisis. Without substantial financial resources, media outlets rely for much of their information on wire services, such as Interfax-Kazakhstan. The future of the Kazakhstani media industry depends on economic development, which it is hoped will bring in additional revenues in the form of advertising.
Literacy rates among men and women in Kazakhstan are above 98%. As of 2010 there are 2,427 printed publications in Kazakhstan. There are 1,619 newspapers, 328 of which are state-owned. In addition there are 808 journals and magazines, 172 of which are state-owned. While Kazakhstanis make up a majority of the population, most media outlets tend to prefer the Russian language. There are 587 newspapers published in Russian, compared with 437 in Kazakh. In addition, 304 journals are also published in Russian compared with 105 in Kazakh. A significant fraction of periodicals are published in both languages. Periodicals are increasingly becoming available in third languages such as English and German.
Under Soviet control journalists tended to employ a more subjective style, and the adjustment to a fact-based objective format has taken time. News reporting today relies heavily on the wire service, which provides the substance of many stories. Because Kazakhstan is such a large country, coverage of rural areas is logistically difficult. However, as the media market begins to mature, niche players are beginning to emerge. One such is Kapital, which concentrates on business and economic news. As the Editor-in-Chief, Igor Kindop, sees it, “Newspapers in the world today must sell an interesting story. It should sell not only facts but also disclose trends to the reader.”
RADIO & TELEVISION
There are 42 radio stations, including five public channels. In addition to state channels that broadcast in Russian and Kazakh, a number of European stations are available. During the 1990s the newly independent government created two public stations: Inter Channel and National Channel—both broadcast in Russian. KTK was the first private station in the country. Today, there are 63 stations, 11 of which are state-run. Kazakhstan-1, Yel Arna, and Khabar are the main public channels. Alternatively, there are 146 cable television stations and six satellite television operators. The cities of Almaty and Astana offer the most options, while the rural population is largely dependent on satellite television.
Television programming varies widely from general news and business news reporting to game shows, soap operas, and dramas. Kazakhstani television has followed Russia’s lead in developing programming through the copycatting of popular Western shows. While some channels create their own programming in Western formats, other stations choose to dub foreign television shows or rebroadcast programming from Russia. However, the Language Law of 2002 requires channels to broadcast 50% of their programming in Kazakh.
News programs tend to focus on financial indicators as well as foreign and domestic news transmitted through wire services. Broadcast media outlets have higher production costs than printed periodicals, and thus are subject to greater financial hardship.
There are seven schools of journalism at state universities around Kazakhstan. The Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Research (KIMEP) is one the largest Western-style academic institutions in Central Asia and provides training in Western news reporting methods and standards. KIMEP offers BA and MA degrees in international journalism and mass communications.
Russian is the main language of the Kazakhstani internet, and more than 90% of websites appear in Russian. Unlike print and broadcast media, websites are not required to register with the Ministry of Culture and Information. Thus, the internet provides media outlets with a lower threshold to enter the market. Government departments are also developing their own websites, and government officials are encouraged to create their own blogs. Compared with other CIS nations, Kazakhstan has made a good deal of progress toward the adoption of Western norms of media practice in the scant 20 years that have elapsed since the nation was founded.
© The Business Year