Today, 21 September 2022, the Media and Journalism Research Center published the 2022 edition of its State of State Media global analysis. The new study captures the changes in state media all over the world. The key findings are presented below.
The full report was launched by the center on 1 October 2022.
The State of State Media: 2022 Key Findings
Who funds, owns and manages, and editorially controls the world’s state media
The government control over the state media remained extremely high in the past year, according to data gathered using our State Media Matrix. Some 84% of the 595 state-administered media entities in 157 countries covered by this report lack editorial independence, up from 80 % last year.1 There are now two regions where state media lacking editorial independence account for over 95%: Sub-Saharan Africa (98%) and Eurasia (97%).
Nearly 80 % of the 493 media outlets whose editorial agenda is controlled by the government in various ways are media companies that fall into our state-controlled media category comprising outlets predominantly funded, managed and editorially controlled by the government (the model with the highest level of state control).
A concerning trend noticed in the past year is the loss of editorial independence by more media outlets. A total of nine media entities, in countries such as Armenia, Tunisia and Jordan, lost their editorial autonomy, being relegated to an inferior model. Equally concerning, the situation of state media worsened in already highly-controlled media environments in Eurasia, MENA region and Asia, a result of global geopolitical developments and events such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Taliban takeover of political power in Afghanistan, and political instability in Yemen and Tunisia. In Asia and MENA, the state-controlled type of media outlet accounts for 74% and 63% of all their state media, respectively.
At the same time, no state media company gained editorial independence within the past year.2 There are 102 state media that have editorial independence, of which only 19 qualify as independent public service media (the model with the highest level of independence in all areas). Most of them, a total of 12 outlets, are based in Europe, and most of the independent public media in Europe, a total of eight, are based in six Western European countries (Austria, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and the Netherlands). The rest of them are one in Southern Europe (Portugal) and three in Central and Eastern Europe (Czechia and Lithuania).
In contrast, there are no independent public media outlets in Eurasia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and MENA, a strong indicator of the widening gap between the quality and reliability of news and information in the West and the dire lack of high-quality news output in the rest of the world.
On the other hand, the situation has not improved in Europe, either and state media in the region are faced with numerous threats as governments and political groups are stepping up efforts to gain more control of the media.
First, although Europe has a high number of independent state media, many of them are in the independent state-funded and state-managed category, which is the most at risk from an editorial point of view. A total of 29 media outlets in this category in Europe present the highest risk to lose their editorial independence and slide into the state-controlled category, which is something that happened to Radio y Televisión de Andalucía (RTVA) in Spain. Second, Europe is faced with a high incidence of cases of captured media outlets, 32 media outlets, more than a third of all such cases worldwide. A total of 21 of them are media outlets with private ownership, mostly oligarchic structures that have ties with state authorities and that follow an editorial line ostensibly supportive of the government. The number of these outlets is only increasing, with newly founded outlets in Poland, Serbia, and Slovenia. It is also notable that the public media in Poland, Hungary and Turkey fall into the state-controlled category, which shows the extreme degree of media capture in these countries where both the public media sector and a vast part of the private media markets come under government control.3
Government control in state media
Editorial independence in state media
State Media: Where To Next?
The state of the state-administered media in the world is far from being healthy. The number of independent state media continues to shrink as reforms to transform state-administered media into independent public media organizations have mostly failed all over the globe. At the same time, in their attempts to keep up with the latest trends in the media field, governments stepped up efforts to build stronger and more influential media organizations whose main purpose is to promote and propagate their views, interests and policies.
Although that has led to a massive growth of the state media as a sector, it has not led to more independence, improved quality of reporting or diversity of content. On the contrary, it continues to spur political polarization and encroaches upon the quality of news reporting.
As governments across the world are now engaged in a harsh information war following an extremely turbulent period characterized by a series of profound economic and health crises as well as a steep decline of democracy, the future of state media looks bleaker than ever especially given the turbulent geopolitical events and developments that continue to shake the world. As expected, the power takeover by the Taliban in Afghanistan and the political instability in Tunisia had a negative impact on the independence of the state media in these countries. The Russian war against Ukraine further worsened the situation globally, leading to more control over the media by the Kremlin and an intensification of Russia’s efforts to boost its propaganda channels abroad.
As put forward in last year’s study, it is precisely these threats to the independence of state media and the shambolic state in which so many state media in the world are that should prompt experts, journalists, civil society and progressive political forces to renew efforts aimed at rebuilding the public service media into resilient organizations able to protect themselves from government pressures. The case for intervention is even more urgent than it was last year.
Without such a concerted effort, the imbalance between a small group of developed countries whose audiences have access to a rich, fact-based news and information diet and high-quality content, and a vast array of nations whose people are fed propagandistic information will continue to amplify, with disastrous consequences for the world’s infosphere.
1 A change in our methodology on counting the entities is partly responsible for the year-on-year increase. In 2022, we also added six more countries to the project. Yet, the figures also reflect a worsening trend. Overall, the number of state media entities increased by 49 since 2021, in all regions apart from Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. In Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Iran, Morocco and Algeria, the increase is due to the methodological change, which added 32 new state media companies, all of which fit in one of the three models lacking editorial independence (SC, CaPu or CaPr). However, the total number of media entities in these three categories (SC, CaPu and CaPr) combined increased by 57 outlets between 2021 and 2022.
2 With the inclusion of more countries in our 2022 study, two editorially independent outlets were added to our database, namely Radio Liechtenstein and the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RUV), both fitting the ISFM model. Yet, historically, they have been editorially independent.
3 For more about what media capture is and especially how it works in reality, see Marius Dragomir, “Media Capture in Europe,” MDIF, May 2019, available at https://www.mdif.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/MDIF-Report-Media-Capture-in-Europe.pdf (accessed on 15 August 2021).