The mass media is the largest institution of democracy. In Uzbekistan, over the last five years, significant work was done to ensure freedom of speech, information and mass communication management system. Ziyoda Rizeva, Head of Public Relations, Center for Economic Research and Reforms, Administration of President of Uzbekistan, wrote that the media sector has become one of the most crucial factors for effective development of society.
Over the last five years, 12 legislative and regulatory acts have been passed in this direction. The laws “On Mass Media” (April 2018) and “On the Protection of the Professional Activity of a Journalist” were amended. The state has created mechanisms to support media, including grants, subsidies and preferences. Media can also be defined as web resources. Electronic registration was used to register mass media. To train journalists, the first University of Journalism and Mass Communications in the country was founded in 2018.
The Agency of Information and Mass Communications (AIMC), which was established under the Administration of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan in February 2019, had the following tasks: to protect journalists’ rights, ensure citizens’ rights to speech and information freedom, promote the growth of the media, and create equal conditions for the media market. In September 2019, the Oliy Majlis (Parliament), of the Republic of Uzbekistan, created a Social Council for the development of information spheres and mass communications.
It is important to increase the transparency of information by public authorities and management. This was previously a problem. More than 600 journalists work as press secretaries in Uzbekistan’s state institutions. They are responsible for more than half the news information flow.
Uzbekistan has made significant improvements in its openness to foreign media. Uzbekistan has granted full access to foreign websites such as BBC Uzbek and Voice of America. Foreign media have now been able to receive accreditation through a simplified process. This includes correspondents of Uzbek services of Voice of America, BBC, Fergana Agency, and other agencies that were previously unable to work in Uzbekistan.
The activities of the national television are undergoing significant changes. The modern platform “Over-the top” of the National Television and Radio Company of Uzbekistan, which combines 26 television channels and 16 radio stations with round-the clock broadcasting, allows central TV channels in the country to broadcast programs in over a hundred other countries.
Participation of media and civil society representatives in the development of mechanisms for self-regulation of information spheres has increased. This was evident in the adoption of the Code of Professional Ethics of Journalists.
Uzbekistan’s position has improved by 24 positions due to the RWB’s May press freedom rating for 2022. It received 45.74 points of 100 possible.
Media in the dynamic of recent years
The media sector has seen a rapid development thanks to the ongoing reforms in liberalization. In Uzbekistan, 448 new media were registered over the last five years (2016-2021).
The largest growth in non-governmental sectors is seen in electronic media. There has been a growth of 194 websites in five years. The number of private magazines also increased by 132 units. In this period, seven new non-state television channels were created and two radio stations opened. From 32 to 120 websites, the number of state-owned electronic media has increased. The largest increase in printed state media is seen in magazines. There have been 85 new publications. On television, three new channels for guests were created.
There are 1,981 registered publishers in Uzbekistan as of April 2022. 82% (557 units), are non-state media. There are also more than 1.3000 users who identify as bloggers and actively engage in media activities. There are currently four news agencies: Turkiston Press, Dunyo and Uzbekiston milliy axborot agentligi, (UzA), and Turon 24.
When discussing the dynamics of media in Uzbekistan it is important to note that one of the qualitative indicators, the media intensity coefficient for 1 million people, is increasing. The coefficient for total media outlets has increased by 8.5 points over the last 6 years (an increase in 17.9%) to 56.0. The percentage of non-state media and state media increased respectively by 4.6 (15.0% and 3.9 (23.0%) points.
Media market trends
Investors who plan to open new online media channels or private TV channels will be interested in Uzbekistan’s media market. It is the region’s largest media market. However, no large-scale study of Uzbekistan’s media market has been done in the past 20 years. There are also only local and segmented studies that have been conducted on various media groups. According to the Ledokol Group review, Uzbekistan’s media market shows moderate growth. Advertising prices rose by 13% in 2021 and net market growth was 12%.
Television accounts for nearly 2/3 of all media budgets. TV occupies a large portion of the media market. The Internet’s total budget has seen a rapid increase from 3% in 2017 up to 19% by 2021. Radio is still the largest segment of the media market. There are currently more than 35 radio stations operating in Uzbekistan. It has a market share of 2%.
Uzbekistan has a variety of television channels, including local state and private channels. There are also foreign cable TV channels. Nineteen of the 74 TV channels and seven of the 37 radio stations broadcast throughout Uzbekistan. The remaining 55 TV channels broadcast at the regional level, while the 30 radio stations and radio stations broadcast only in the regions. While 36 of these channels are state-owned, 38 are privately owned, and only 5 radio stations are available for state broadcasting, the remaining 32 radio stations are private.
Uzbekistan changed to placing TV ads on TV based on ratings. This allowed them to place ads based on broadcast popularity, and not just buying airtime. Since the introduction of rating TV viewing in November 2018, the inflow of foreign investments into TV has increased over the three years. The TV advertising market has been recovering since 2021. Therefore, advertisers have seen a 2% increase in their investments. In Uzbekistan, the TV market share was the highest in the world in 2021. Each year, there are more advertisers from abroad.
Despite Uzbekistan’s rapid growth in the media market, it still plays a small role in the country’s economy, compared to other developed countries where the media sector has significant resources. The media sector’s share in the GNPs of the USA, UK and Canada is approximately 3%. This means that the media sector has significantly outpaced the overall economic growth. This means that Uzbekistan’s media sector has a lot of potential.
Financial support for the media
All media, no matter their legal status or volume, paid the same taxes until recently. This taxation situation had negative consequences for the financial health of media as well as the ability to increase the use of mass media services due to their high price.
A Decree of President of Uzbekistan was approved in June 2022. It is based on foreign experience, and aims to improve the financial stability of media. The media now pay an income tax at a rate of 50% (7.5% instead of 15.5%), except for media advertising and import of equipment and paper that are not made in Uzbekistan. Customs duties are exempted from media imports. This decision will not only increase the financial independence and stimulate private investment in the sector.
The prospects of the media market
The media sector in Uzbekistan today is in rapid development. Non-state media are now open, and the transformation of the media market is underway. In which the private sector, independent electronic media as well as blogging, are experiencing the greatest growth rates,
Initiated reforms in media continue to be implemented.
Not to be overlooked is the Development Strategy of the New Uzbekistan 2022-2026, which further strengthens the media role and protects the professional activities of journalists. This will influence public opinion and deepen reforms and contribute to the continued influx of private capital in the development of the media sector.
Under the Administration of President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Center for Economic Research and Reforms is both a research centre and an Accelerator of social-economic reforms. CERR offers advice and comments on recommendations for socio-economic programming by Ministries in order to address the major development issues in a quick, efficient and operational manner. CERR is ranked in the Central Asian Top-10 according to the Global Go To Think Tank Index Report 2020 (USA ).
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