When TV was introduced in Azerbaijan in 1956, the country was still part of the USSR. Today there are 47 television channels, out of which 4 are public and 43 private, while 12 are national and 31 regional channels. According to the State Statistical Committee of the Azerbaijan Republic, the penetration rate of cable television was 28.1 percent of households in 2013. About 39 percent of cable television subscribers are based in major cities. The penetration rate of cable television in Baku was 59.1 percent.
TV is the most demanded media and many households have subscribed to satellite TV. State-funded ITV is a national public service broadcaster. ITV does not ensure pluralism, despite its membership in the EBU, which requires balanced and varied programming for all sectors of the population. ITV has been mainly meeting the needs of the government since its formation in 2005. It gives only short and generally one-sided news about actual happenings in the country, including the activities of political parties or public associations, mainly as a propaganda tool of the state. Public TV often gives biased information about individuals and organisations and does not grant them airtime to exercise their right to reply.
On the eve of snap Parliamentary elections that took place on 9 February 2020, private TVs abstained from conducting a paid campaign. None of private TV-channels appealed to the Central Electoral Commission to provide platform for candidates on paid basis. Public TV provided it on paid basis: candidates or their representatives must pay minimum 22 manats per second of air time (1320 manats per minute) and maximum 65 manats per second for the pre-election campaign to Parliament (3900 manats per minute).
All Azerbaijan-based channels have ties to the government. Some channels are owned by relatives or partners of government officials. State-owned AzTV runs three national channels (AzTV, Medeniyyet TV, Idman Azerbaijan) and there are five privately-owned stations with national reach and pro-governmental views (Lider, Space, ATV, ARB and Khazar TV). Real TV is a nation-wide cable TV also holding pro-governmental views. Turkish, Russian and western TVs are also available through cable.
Although the above-mentioned stations have national coverage, the population does not have access to pluralistic political views through broadcast media. The main reason is a monopoly of the government on television, which leads to full coverage of the activities and views of the authorities, while ignoring the views of opposition leaders.
The TVs of the opposition and those close to exiled politicians go live through satellite and online distribution. Analogue terrestrial TV was phased out in 2016-17. Although the government cannot extensively block their online content, web users and their families can face intimidations and arrest.