It is only little recognized, even among the students of mass media, that international news system is a network of national or regional news agencies, and that many of those are state-owned. Fully commercial agencies like Reuters are very rare, and even international news agencies, such as AFP, are often subsidized by the government. In order to have a broad picture of the state-ownership of news agencies, I collected information from BBC’s media profile, and identified countries that have state-run news agencies. It turned out that among 114 countries in the source, 40.3% of the countries have state-run agencies.
In this plot, red-colored countries have state-run news agencies, and we notice that they usually neither have very small or large economies measured by GDP, because large domestic media markets increase independence of news agencies by commercial operation, and small economies simply cannot support national news agencies.
The more important is the concentration of the state-owned agencies in countries with limited press freedom: press freedom below 40 points is considered ‘not free’ by the Freedom House. This means that news reports from those state-run news agencies in unfree countries might be biased in favor of the government, and those stories come into the international news distribution system. Are the foreign news stories we read free from such biases?