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Who owns the media?

Ever since Mongolia’s transition to Democracy in the early 1990ies the media market is booming so wildly that a disparity is obvious at first sight: for a market of three million people there are close to 500 media outlets. More than a hint, that media ownership is not necessarily seen as money making machine, but rather serves other interests. (See Context Economy-Media market, Context Media and Context Politics)

Research by the Press Institute of Mongolia, MOM’s partner organization, shows that in early 2016 there were a total of 485 media outlets: 101 newspapers, 69 radio stations, 131 TV stations and 98 internet news portals.

Meanwhile, it is not easy to find out “Who owns the media in Mongolia?”  Transparency obligations for media owners are deficient. Print outlets and also online news media do not need to publicly disclose their owners. Only for TV and radio stations the government appointed regulatory commission CRC demands transparency of license owners. But CRC information is often limited and outdated and the obligation to disclose ownership is not enforced. So access for the public to media ownership information leaves much to be desired.  (See Context Law, Indicator 6 and 7)

Nevertheless, MOM research came to the conclusion that the print media market and the online news sector are highly concentrated. The TV and radio markets have a medium concentration level. (See Context Economy-Media market, Context Media, Indicator 1 and 2)

Mongolia’s media market is penetrated by political affiliations

Generally, financial information on media businesses is not available to the public. However, it seems a safe guess that most of Mongolia’s many media outlets are unprofitable. In turn, it can be assumed that the owners do not engage in media businesses for profits but rather as a tool to articulate their political preferences and to protect their economic interests.

In any case, information on political affiliations of media outlets and their owners can only be found through research. The CRC transparency law does not oblige companies to describe interests of their related parties, i.e. family members, or political affiliations.

Nevertheless, MOM research shows that in fact, 29 out of a total of 39 investigated media outlets have political affiliations through their founders and / or owners. (See Context Politics, Indicator 6 and 8, “Politics & Friends”)   

Mounting pressure on media and journalists  

The multiple links between politics and businesses result in multiple pressures on media outlets and journalists. If media outlets are politically or financially dependent, it puts them in the position of serving the owners rather than the public. At the same time it prevents journalists from being neutral and opens doors to self-censorship. In addition, Mongolian journalists are generally overworked and underpaid. So it is very common that reporters depend on an extra income and put their profession on sale, producing “Paid Content” or “Washed News”, as Mongolians say. (See Context Society, Context Politics, “Big Business & Washed News”)

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