MAPPING DIGITAL MEDIA: KAZAKHSTAN
Open Society Foundation
" There are no public service provisions in the legal framework of Kazakhstan in general, and consequently no specific provisions for commercial media. But there are advocates for introducing them. For example, Ms Zhaksybaeva, an outspoken advocate of independent broadcasting, believes that the most realistic opportunity at this point for creating public service in the country would be to develop provisions providing incentives for commercial broadcasters to create or broadcast public service content rather than immediately working to create a dedicated public service outlet. “I think this model is most feasible for Kazakhstan and most desirable for Kazakhstan. If public service is created on the basis of commercial television and the state will help with the content that will be interesting for all the society." (page 43)
"Although they do not question the value of bringing programming to remote regions, critics such as Sholpan Zhaksybaeva, executive director of the National Association of Broadcasters of Kazakhstan, suggest that OTAU TV’s privileging of state media, particularly in the free package, further entrenches a model in which the state dominates broadcasting. Although commercial broadcasters are part of the basic OTAU package, the tier has 24 channels set aside for state transmission (including 14 largely redundant regional television channels) and only 14 for private broadcasters—and no guarantee that incumbent commercial broadcasters will stay in the tier as new state-run channels are introduced." (page 40)
"Analog-era licenses were issued for an indefinite period of time. In the 1990s, private broadcasters paid US$ 50,000–80,000 (KZT 7.5 to 12 million) for the analog licenses granting them the right to broadcast in a particular municipality.There was no fixed price, no clear methodology and no transparent regulation for calculating the price. Tariff s varied by station, and were not publicly available. Ruslan Nikonovich, CEO of Novoe TV, a private station in Karaganda, who went through the licensing process in the late 1990s, says, “After paying off a certain fee, we were given proper documentation providing the right to use the frequency for an indefinite period of time. However, how those fees were calculated, I do not know.”
By the end of 2011, the possibility of incumbent broadcasters losing their analog frequencies without due process became one of the major controversies among the authorities and leading media NGOs, including the NAB, Adil Soz, and Internews Kazakhstan, with the private broadcasters joining the debate. At various stages of the stand-off , the NAB suggested four scenarios for managing this problem:
1. Broadcasters retain their frequencies in order to create their own, private MUXs later on, or sell them to the interested parties;
2. The government buys out the frequency by reimbursing the broadcasters’ costs;
3. The government annuls the license, takes away the frequency, but in return guarantees the broadcaster space in the MUX, nationally or locally, according to the revoked license, for an indefinite period of time.
4. In exchange for the analog frequency, broadcasters become shareholders of Kazteleradio."