Staunton, February 25 – Many assume that it is Russian television’s penetration of the Belarusian marketplace that delivers the most pro-Russian messages there, but in fact, a study by the Belarusian Association of journalists finds that “the main source of pro-Russian messages” in Belarus is “the head of the Belarusian state,” Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
The study, based on monitoring of electronic and print media in the republic, did find that almost exactly half (49 percent) of the programming on television channels in Belarus is produced in or in cooperation with Russia (baj.by/be/analytics/prodvizhenie-russkogo-mira-idet-cherez-belorusskie-tv-kanaly-bazh-prezentoval-monitoring, discussed in detail at thinktanks.by/publication/2019/02/25/kto-v-avangarde-prorossiyskoy-propagandy-v-belarusi.html).
But despite the massive Russian presence, the study concludes, “propaganda of the idea of ‘the Russian world’ takes place via ‘its own Belarusian television channels which are financed out of the [Belarusian] state budget and included in the obligatory television package,” including not unimportantly Lukashenka’s own remarks.
Maksim Zhbankov, a media expert who led the study, says that it focused on “three levels of the creation of a Russia-centric information field: first are the political declarations and official chronicle, second the global context where we observe a common Russia-centric picture of the world … and a third level” which he says is the most interesting.
This level involves indirect Russian influence through Russian television series or entertainment programs. This is the resource through which are farmed the very same Russia-centric pictures of the world but already not at the level of mass consciousness but of mass subconsciousness.”
The number of explicit pro-Russian messages is relatively small, the study says; but their impact is greater for two reasons, the absence of alternative messages and the negative treatment of anything that challenges the Russia-centric vision of the world that Moscow and clearly to a certain extent Minsk want to promote.
“The main source of pro-Russian propaganda in Belarus,” the study says, “remains television. Despite the declarations of the Belarusian authorities about increasing Belarusian content … 60 percent of primetime television is more than 60 percent of Russian origin.” But what is striking is the Belarusian-produced content is often more pro-Russian than the Russian is.
Thus, “the relative percentage of materials with messages of Russian propaganda relative to the total number of materials on [Moscow’s] Sputnik Belarus turns out to be less than on [Minsk’s] Belarus-1 television channel,” the journalistic study says. And the impact of this and of the background motifs is far stronger than any propaganda explicitly directed toward Moscow.
According to Belarusian observers, this study confirms that “the measures which the Belarusian authorities have taken to defend the information space of the country are not adequate to the real threat.” They do not even acknowledge, the journalists suggest, the way in which this threat not only takes many forms but is helped along by Belarusian media as well.
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