Photo of Michael Meehan speaking on a BBG panel
L-R: Bruce Sherman, Director, BBG Office of Strategy and Development; Neli Esipova, Director of Research, Global Migration and Regional Director, Gallup; Scott Michael, Research Analyst, International Broadcasting Bureau; Michael Meehan, BBG Board Member.

Russians turning to internet for unbiased news

Although television remains the most prevalent medium in Russian households, Internet access is rising dramatically nationwide, according to media research data released today by the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

“On the eve of the Olympics, it is fitting that we can be here today to discuss this data and how we as broadcasters can effectively use taxpayer dollars to provide news and information that Russians just aren’t receiving from their local press,” said BBG Governor Michael Meehan. That data, he explained, informs the BBG on how best to reach Russian audiences.

Russia’s restrictive media environment is increasingly limiting broadcast avenues for non-state media. Television and radio stations carrying programming deemed “unfavorable” by Russian authorities often find themselves targeted by the Kremlin and pushed off the air.

These restrictions are not going by unnoticed — the data from the BBG media survey show that there is dissatisfaction among Russians with the limited news and opinions that major Russian media provide; 30% of adults said that Russian media do not offer enough variety in perspectives on current events and issues. A 2013 Gallup World Poll survey of Russia found that only 48% of respondents felt that media in Russia was free, and Freedom House ranked Russia 176 out of 196 countries for press freedom in 2013.

The Internet, however, is one of the least-controlled avenues for news and information in Russia. The survey results released today show that as more Russians get Internet access – seven in 10 have access at home in 2013 – more of them are getting their news online. A majority of Russians (56.4%) said they receive their news from the Internet at least once a week. The Internet outdistances traditional media such as newspapers and magazines (49.8%) and radio (43.8%) as a source for weekly news. And, as Paul Tibbitts, RFE/RL Director of Market Insight and Evaluation observed,  “With this increasingly Internet-savvy audience that expects on-demand, personalized news, a robust Internet strategy is key to engaging younger, digital audiences and expanding reach in Russia.”

A research brief and presentation with further information about this data can be found here, and a recording of the briefing will be added in the coming days. More information about the BBG’s media research series is available here.