In the Thick of It

A blog on the U.S.-Russia relationship

Bad TV News for the Kremlin

September 29, 2020
RM Staff

Russians continue to reduce their dependency on television as a news source, and they also trust TV less and less in what may be bad news for the Kremlin, which has relied on its control of this electronic medium to massage public opinion.

Russia’s leading independent pollster, the Levada Center, surveyed 1,600 individuals in 137 settlements across 50 regions of Russia on Aug. 20-26, 2020, finding that 48 percent of Russians named television as their most trusted news source. That makes Russia’s national and regional television channels, the majority of which the state and its loyalists have come to control during Vladimir Putin’s more than 20-year rule, more trusted than any other news source in Russia as of August 2020. However, the problem for the Kremlin is that this share has been steadily declining. All in all, it has declined by an impressive total of 31 percentage points since Levada began asking the question in August 2009 (see table 1). In the same period of time, the combined shares of Russians who named online news resources or social networks as their most trusted news sources—mediums the Kremlin is more limited in regulating and controlling than TV— more than quadrupled from 11 percent in 2009 to 47 percent in 2020 (see table 1).

Another measurement Levada has been tracking and whose recent changes Kremlin PR specialists may find worrisome, is the share of Russians who rely on various mediums for learning the news.

The combined share of Russians who rely on either online news resources or online social networks for news more than quadrupled from 15 percent in 2009 to 75 percent in 2020, overtaking the share of those who rely on TV for the first time in January 2019. The same period of time saw the share of Russians who relied on TV for news more than any other medium decline from a monopolistic high of 94 percent in 2009 to 69 percent in 2020 (see table 2).

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