Fewer Russians Believe What They See on TV News, Survey Shows

  • Public trust slides even as TV remains main information source
  • One in five relies on friends, family for news, Levada says

Trust in television news among Russians has declined sharply and fewer than half now believe it tells them what’s going on in the country and the world, according to a Levada Center survey.

Just 41 percent of Russians consider TV news a trustworthy source of information, down from 50 percent in 2014 and 79 percent in 2009, Levada said in a poll published Wednesday on its website. Nineteen percent said they relied on friends, family and neighbors to find out what’s happening in Russia and beyond, while 18 percent turned to the Internet.

While many clearly have misgivings about what they’re watching, 85 percent of the 1,600 people surveyed said that TV is their main source of domestic and international news. A quarter also cited friends and family, while 21 percent said they used the Internet and 13 percent mentioned online social networks. The poll conducted Nov. 20-23 had a margin of error of no more than 3.4 percentage points.

Declining trust in TV offers a challenge to the Kremlin, which maintains tight control over state-run broadcasters, while President Vladimir Putin’s opponents turn to the Internet to publish allegations of official corruption and incompetence. Putin’s annual news conference will be broadcast live on Thursday on state channels, which have given mostly uncritical coverage of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and the military campaign being conducted in Syria.

Putin signed legislation last year that bars foreign companies from owning more than 20 percent of Russian newspapers, TV and radio stations, while also backing laws to tighten control over Internet publications amid political tensions with the U.S. and the European Union. Some politicians in the pro-Putin United Russia party said the media law was needed to counter an “information war” from the U.S. and Europe.

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