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Belarusian media consumption trends in 2023


A study conducted by Chatham House at the end of 2023 highlights the continued gradual decline in media consumption among the audience in Belarus, particularly independent media. This decline is attributed to the high “cost” of media consumption, fatigue from negative information, and low interest in news due to a perceived lack of opportunities for change. At the same time, sociologists record the stopping of further dynamics and reaching a plateau.

There are four groups of media consumers in Belarus. The first is an active audience consuming both types of media — state-controlled and independent, making up 23% of the population as of November 2023. The audience of state resources is the largest — 38% of the population, while the audience of independent media is 16%. Another 23% comprises those who rarely use any media.

According to a closed study available to the sociological group of the Press Club, the share of the weekly audience of Belarusian state media has remained almost unchanged in 2023 (hovering around 37-38%), but the level of trust in state media has increased (from 31% to 35%). The share of the weekly audience and the level of trust in Belarusian independent media slightly decreased (the audience — from 29 to 25%, trust — from 30 to 24%). When interpreting these data, it is important to take into account the context: almost all independent media have been labeled extremists by the Belarusian authorities, their websites are blocked and the distribution of their content is criminalised.

Also, when interpreting these indicators, one should take into account the influence of the fear factor on the answers received, the pressure of social desirability of answers, and the underrepresentation of the opinions of people who interrupt the questionnaire because of a sensitive topic. In the context of a repressive state, where the consumption of certain media resources may have legal consequences, respondents may be inclined to provide “safe” answers or avoid expressing their real views. Thus, the direction of the response shift caused by the fear factor, leading to underestimating data on independent media consumption and overestimating figures for state-affiliated media, is evident. The mentioning that almost 40% of respondents claim to consume content from independent media is also important, as it indicates a significant level of involvement in independent information resources, despite potential risks.

The Belarus Analytical Workshop (BAW) analysed who tends to trust state media: mostly older people (45+), rural residents (79%), rather with secondary (and lower) education (71%). Conversely, a high level of education, residence in urban areas and younger age are associated with a lower level of trust in state information resources.

According to BAW, 57% of respondents trust Belarusian independent media (9% completely and 48% partially). This is more than half of respondents, and a considerable number — 18% of respondents — found it difficult to answer (significantly higher than for state media, where only 7% had difficulty). Sociologists consider these data as the “minimally proven” level of trust in independent media: “It is entirely possible that, in reality, trust levels in Belarusian official and unofficial media do not differ significantly.”

The BAW data may seem to contradict the data provided by the Press Club or Chatham House, but since the polls were conducted by different methods (Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) and Computer-assisted web interviewing (CAWI)), by different methodologies and by different samples (entire population and only urban population), the results predictably differ.

Thus, under conditions of total control over society by the state and incomparably greater resources available to state media compared to non-state media, the level of trust in state media does not differ fundamentally from the level of trust in independent media.

The audiences of both state and independent media do not trust alternative sources of information, even if they consume information from them. Both groups exist in their “information bubbles”, and they extend their perception of key events (attitude to Lukashenka’s regime, the war in Ukraine, deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, etc.) to the whole society.

Sociologists record the existence of information echo chambers in the Belarusian media space, amplifying polarization in society.

Television remains the main source of information for Belarusians inside Belarus. Its audience systematically and regularly receives predominantly Russian media narratives and a pro-Kremlin view of major world events. This is one of the main risk factors of information security of the state.

Social surveys reveal correlation between the type of media consumption and attitudes towards current socio-political issues. Pro-Russian and anti-democratic attitudes are influenced by messages received from Belarusian and Russian state-affiliated media. The high share of using television as the main source of information implies that its audience stays in the Russian-Belarusian state info bubble, broadcasting narratives about the great USSR, fraternal nations, the threat from the West, etc.

Belarus, as a sovereign state, is heavily dependent on Russia, and this dependence is reinforced by the policies of major technological companies, especially considering that Belarus is often treated as part of the Russian internet segment. For instance, the absence of the region “Belarus” in Google News prevents users from selecting Belarusian as a language; choosing Russian automatically links to the region “Russia”. This results in mass users receiving an automatic selection of news about Russia from a Russian perspective. Discussions are underway about the need for localization of Google services for Belarus (in Belarusian and Russian) and the possibility of prioritizing the display of Belarusian news resources in Google News and Google Discover for users within Belarus.

Google uses complex algorithms that take into account many factors, including the accessibility of a site to its audience. If a site is consistently unavailable to a certain audience, it can impact its visibility in search results for that audience. For this reason, sites blocked by the Belarusian authorities may be assessed as irrelevant, and therefore pessimistic in delivering results.

The “Belarus” region on YouTube is detected automatically, but when searching for “news,” Russian propaganda dominated.

Native promotion of independent media is difficult due to the criminalization of their media consumption. The audience fears liking, commenting, and sharing content from “extremist” organizations on their profiles. As a result, algorithms pessimize the messages of independent Belarusian media, which significantly complicates their access to audiences. In addition, Belarusian independent media have massively faced a ban on advertising promotion of their content on Facebook and Instagram due to its relevance to issues of public importance. Advertisers need permission for “political advertising,” and “Advertisers must be based in the target country or have a presence in it during the display of the ad. Documents for obtaining permission must be issued in the advertiser’s country.” This requirement is practically impossible for media in exile, especially for media legally dissolved in Belarus.

The European Commission has urged Google, Meta and other big tech companies to help Belarusian media in exile promote their materials. his response comes following a joint appeal by Belarusian journalists at the end of 2023. “Fighting disinformation and promoting media freedom are two sides of the same coin, and we want big tech companies to do both. This means ensuring that reliable information is visible on the Internet, and not propaganda from Minsk or the Kremlin,” the Financial Times quotes European Commissioner Vera Jourova as saying.

This call from the European Commission is a significant step in increasing international pressure on technology companies to support the free flow of information and support Belarusian independent media. It also reflects an understanding of the necessity to counteract misinformation and propaganda spread by Belarusian and Russian state structures.


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Польша стала пристанищем для многих беларусов, спасающихся от репрессий, и бегущих от войны украинцев. А ещё – главной мишенью для беларусских пропагандистов. Чтобы дискредитировать Польшу, они манипулировали историей и использовали миграционный кризис на границе Беларуси и ЕС.

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