The State of Media in Ukraine: the Internews Annual Survey
Censorship was a way of life in Ukraine for decades, under Soviet rule and beyond. The hard-won right to overcome this history depends on a robust media to make good on the promise of free expression. The good news is that Ukraine has a pluralistic, mature media landscape. The bad news is that much of it is tinged with propaganda, either from Ukrainian oligarchs who own major media properties or from Russian media streaming in from next door.
Every year, Internews, as part of the USAID-funded Ukraine Media Project, conducts an in-depth survey to track the evolution of this landscape, seeking to understand how people access and process critical news and information. The 2016 survey reveals a drop in trust of Russian media, an increase in people getting their news from the internet, and a growing awareness of ownership of local and national media. These three points — less blind trust in propaganda, increasing access to a free internet and awareness of the ownership and potential biases in the media one consumes — are all critical moves in the right direction for a country where independent media is often seen as the last line of defense against a culture where corruption all too often wins over free and fair processes.
What follows are some key takeaways from the survey. The primary research was conducted in the Ukrainian oblasts under Ukrainian control and do not include Crimea and the contested territories of eastern Ukraine. The year-over -year comparisons are drawn from the same geographies.
Ukrainians are news consumers
Overall, Ukrainians are large consumers of news. Only 1% of the population reports that they do not access news at all.
Internet use is eating into the dominance of TV broadcast
Internet use is up, including news sites and social networks. In 2016, 67% of respondents said they use the web to get news, compared to 64% in 2015. Television is still the main source of news for Ukrainians, but it is continuing a downward slide in popularity. The number of Ukrainians reporting they watch TV news has declined 10% over the past two years, from 89% in 2014, to 79% in 2016. Nevertheless, television remains the most popular means for people to get information, chiefly due to its traditional hold over audiences older than 35.
As news consumption via the internet grows, Ukrainians under 35 are increasingly getting their news not from news websites, but from news aggregators (like ukr.net) and social networks, like Facebook as well as Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, the Russian social networks. The percentage of respondents who use Facebook and prefer Facebook for news over other social media sites has grown dramatically over the past year, from 27% to 36% (use in general) and from 12% to 21% (preferred means of getting news) from 2015 to 2016.
Trust in internet news is also growing more quickly than other forms of media, where it is dropping.
Trust in Russian media continues to drop
Ukrainians are using Russian media much less than they did in 2014 and 2015. Russian TV news consumption has declined from 27% in 2014 to 6% in 2016, while online news consumption has declined from 21% to 11% during this time, and newspapers and radio stations remain unpopular. Fewer people trust Russian media than they did at the beginning of the conflict in the east; trust in Russian TV has fallen from 20% to 4% in the last two years, while trust in online news has fallen from 16% to 5%; trust levels for radio and newspapers languish at 2%. Trust in Russian television and online sources was down in almost all parts of the country.
Ukrainians have a growing awareness of who owns the media
The number of people responding that they know who owns the local and national media has jumped up to 35% (local) and 50% (national). Importantly, around 40% of respondents think that transparency around media ownership is important. The awareness that media ownership can influence content is a critical piece of combatting the propaganda that has long-defined much of the Ukrainian media landscape.
The survey was conducted in May-June 2016 for Internews by InMind. Explore the report.
This research is made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The research findings are the sole responsibility of Internews and InMind and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID and the United States government.
(This story was originally posted on Medium.)