Ukrainians Increasingly Rely on Telegram Channels for News and Information During Wartime

The USAID/Internews annual media consumption survey offers insights into the news consumption habits of Ukrainians while the country has been resisting full-scale Russian aggression for more than 18 months. Face-to-face interviews and focus groups were carried out between July and September this year.

The survey showed a continuation of the trend of decline in news consumption on TV. The majority of adult Ukrainians – 76% – get their news from social media, and the number of people using TV as well as social media for news is in steep decline – only 21% in 2023.

In 2021 only 20% of Ukrainians used Telegram as a source of news. This number increased steeply to 60% following Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022. This year, Telegram continued to be the primary social network for news consumption, showing significant continued growth to 72%.

Some 40% of respondents go to online news websites for their news consumption, making this group of media the second most important source of information. Television channels are losing their prominence as news sources. In 2015, 85% of Ukrainians said they used television as an important source of news, but in 2023 this number has reduced to 30%.

Most Ukrainians use smartphones for their news consumption: 87% of the total number of respondents and 97% of younger people aged 18-35.

Ukrainians show a high level of trust in information that comes from family (82%), friends (75%), the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defense (80%). Media (TV, radio, newspapers, and online news) are trusted by 53% of respondents, and more people trust media as a source of information than don’t (31%).

While 80% of respondents know about the United News Telethon, young people tend not to know about it or use it for news and information. However, 55% of Ukrainians said they watched it at least once a month. Those who watch it like it and 65% think it should continue. Focus group participants who watch it said they found it more positive amid a highly negative information environment for news about the war. However, for that reason, certain groups tended to distrust it, including people living in occupied territories or those worst affected by fighting, and military personnel.  

Among radio stations, the one most often cited as a favorite source of news was Ukrainian Radio, which signifies a high level of trust in Ukraine’s public service broadcaster.

Most respondents (84%) know about the existence of disinformation, and 72% of those who are aware of such content claim that they know how to distinguish between unreliable and truthful content. However, only 38% of those aware of the problem of disinformation consider it urgent, most likely because people tend to be overconfident about their ability to distinguish it.  

Internews worked with media watchdogs and media literacy partners the Institute of Mass Information, Detector Media, the Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy, the Academy of Ukrainian Press and Internews Ukraine to devise a short test examining respondents’ actual ability to discern true information from disinformation. This year’s results were similar to last year’s. A slightly higher number than last year got one or more out of three correct (78%) and a lower number correctly identified all three messages (8% compared to 14% in 2022).

While most Ukrainians had exposure to common Russian disinformation narratives, more respondents identified them as untrue rather than true. In particular, Ukrainians were extremely unlikely to believe that Ukraine will be unable to defeat Russia or that the Ukrainian government is responsible for divisions within the Orthodox church.

This year’s USAID/Internews survey also carried out focus groups and interviews with IDPs, refugees abroad, inhabitants of occupied territories, and military personnel to spotlight their media consumption habits. Most focus group respondents said they confirm the information they receive from media and official sources by directly communicating with people who may have witnessed the events. This includes seeking news from relatives and friends in affected areas, IDPs verifying information about their hometowns with those who still reside there, and military personnel cross-referencing news with colleagues on the frontlines. IDPs have adapted to their new places of residence, but they – like Ukrainians abroad – still follow their local media from their hometowns to see what is happening there. People in occupied territories also rely on Telegram and other social media that are not blocked by Russian occupation forces. 

Despite the ongoing war, 25% of Ukrainians expressed their willingness to pay for a subscription to their preferred online media, a number which has continued  to slowly increase since 2021. For Ukrainian media outlets seeking additional financial resources through membership models, this is an important opportunity to explore.

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About the study

The 2022 USAID/Internews Media Consumption Survey was conducted by InMind at the request of Internews, an international media development organization that is implementing the Media Program in Ukraine with financial support from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The survey’s main objectives are to define Ukrainians’ media habits and measure their trust in media, media literacy, and awareness of Ukraine’s reforms process. InMind representatives interviewed 3,250 people across eight regions between July and September 2023. The sampling error is no greater than 2.5 percent.

Media contacts: For more information and further enquiries, please, contact Tetiana Stepykina on +38067.341.42.46 or at [email protected]

About Internews in Ukraine

Internews is an international nonprofit that supports independent media in 100 countries. Internews trains journalists, tackles disinformation, and offers business expertise to help media outlets thrive financially. For 40 years, it has helped partners reach millions of people with trustworthy information that saves lives, improves livelihoods, and holds institutions accountable. 

Since 1993, Internews has worked in Ukraine with journalists, civil society activists, public officials and citizens to improve the quality and impact of a vibrant, independent news media. Internews is committed to helping develop skills and leadership in Ukrainian media through technical assistance backed by financial support from international donor organizations.

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This survey is made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the sole responsibility of Internews and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.