https://central.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_ca/features/2020/03/16/feature-02
| Media

Viewers say good riddance as Kazakh TV operator removes Russian channels

By Kanat Altynbayev

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The popularity of Russian news channels, like Channel One, has plummeted in recent years in Central Asia because of the Kremlin's disinformation campaigns. [Channel One]

ALMATY -- Almatel Kazakhstan, the country's largest cable-television company, has removed Channel One and other Russian stations from its network amid higher rebroadcast costs.

Many Kazakhs are saying good riddance.

The move to drop the channels was due to unjustified price increases, according to the press office of Alma TV, the brand under which Almatel operates.

For a number of years, the rebroadcast costs of the Digital TV Family have been rising annually, Alma TV said, as cited by the Kazakh edition of the Forbes online magazine,

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An Alma TV customer service office is shown in Almaty March 12. Alma TV, a major player on the pay television market, has removed Channel One and other Russian channels. [Kanat Altynbayev]

"To continue the partnership in 2020 ... the price was set automatically, without any justifications offered by the rights holder/distributor," it said.

Alma TV stated that it had approached the Russian TV channels with a request to maintain last year's terms but did not receive a positive response.

"The increase in the price of the rebroadcast rights directly affects the cost of offering the television services, and that will exact a toll on the end customer ... the company cannot tolerate this," Alma TV said.

'They're just propaganda'

Meanwhile, the Russian channels are considered by many to be a mouthpiece for the Kremlin.

The excessive influence of the Russian media on the Kazakh audience is fraught with undesirable consequences in terms of information security, said Seitqazy Matayev of Almaty, chairman of the Kazakhstan Union of Journalists.

"Russian channels promote the Kremlin's agenda in Kazakhstan, which doesn't always correspond to Kazakhstan's interests," he said.

Kazakhs have taken to social media to express their contentment that Russian channels will be disappearing from their televisions.

In reaction to the news, almost all the commenters on Forbes' Facebook page welcomed the removal of the Russian channels.

"I've never watched, I don't watch, and I'm not going to watch Russian channels. They just sow lies, animosity, hostility and hate," wrote a user named Aidyn Ken.

"Excellent decision! Get Russia24 out of the RK [Republic of Kazakhstan] too," wrote another user named Jandos Temirgali.

"Well done! All Russian channels should be removed. They're just propaganda," a user named Aimurat Kozhakov wrote.

Just last month, Russian state-funded media was caught pushing anti-Western messages about the cause of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe, with operators of Kremlin-linked social media accounts further spreading the messages in the days and weeks after.

Mistrust of Russian media outlets

Kazakhs are not alone in distrusting Russia media.

Almost half of poll respondents in Central Asia do not trust Russian media outlets like Sputnik and RT, according to a 2018 Caravanserai survey.

A poll conducted for the month of April 2018 received 758 responses to the query "Do you trust Russian media outlets such as Sputnik and RT?"

Among readers, 264 (34%) responded "yes", 377 (48%) responded "no", 63 (8%) said "it depends on the subject", 58 (7%) said "I have never heard of Sputnik or RT" and 23 (3%) responded "I don't know".

A majority of the responses -- 51% -- came from Kazakhstan, 17% from Uzbekistan, 8% from Kyrgyzstan, 4% from Tajikistan and the remaining 20% from various proxy servers in Central Asia and other countries.

Russia's RT and Sputnik news organisations were barred from a global conference on media freedom in London last July because of their "active role in spreading disinformation", Britain's Foreign Office said at the time.

About 60 ministers and 1,000 journalists and members of civil society attended the meeting co-hosted with Canada.

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Russians themselves don't turn on their TVs. They have grown tired of Putin's propaganda. They mostly follow the Internet.

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Russia will either lose its influence in the Central Asian republics due to its greed or start broadcasting [Russian] channels for free. Russia should be interested in broadcasting in Central Asia!!!

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Finally, they are starting to shut down zombie channels little by little

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