Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Youtube Accelerating Decline of Russian State Television

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 9 – The Russian television scene on which Vladimir Putin has relied is changing rapidly in a variety of ways, some of which work to his advantage in the short term but most of which reduce the role of state television and allow more independent players to communicate with the population, something that promises to transform Russian politics.

            The Kremlin leader is gaining one short-term advantage at present: his government’s shift from analogue to digital broad casting means that many regional television networks will go off the air, allowing Moscow to achieve even greater domination of television time than before ( and

            But his losses are far greater and reflect both declining viewership of television by Russians across the board and the rise of Youtube as an alternative, freer and more open television space for the increasingly Internet-connected Russian population who it appears will watch it rather than television and especially state television.

            During 2018, viewership of state television fell by more than ten percent, with Russia One’s audience declining in size by 12.87 percent and First Channel falling by 11.78 percent, figures that do not yet challenge their dominance but may if they continue in the future as there is every reason to expect (

                According to Moscow observers, it is the existence of video on Youtube and other Internet platforms that is drawing people away, not only because it is more interesting but also because it is more diverse, something that means that as the audience of state TV declines, the audience becomes more fragmented just as in the West with the radical increase in channels. 

            Two new articles celebrate Youtube’s rise and state TV’s fall: Aleks Sinodov says “the Internet has opened the era of film-samizdat” ( and Aleksandra Podolskaya of Novaya gazeta argues “instead of one big old TV, we now have many small new ones” (

            It would certainly be wrong to suggest that this is anything but a trend. However, anyone who has lived in the US from the time when everyone watched three national channels to one in which there are hundreds of very specific ones certainly knows, the multiplication of channels fragments the public in ways that few other things have.

            If something similar happens in Russia over the next few years, it is likely that something similar will occur there, a trend that will reinforce certain divisions while destroying others even as it makes if far more difficult for anyone at the center to count on television to mold opinion in the way the Kremlin wants. 

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