18.07.22 Analytics

Telegram vs. TV

The Levada Center’s June survey shows that the war has not changed a recent and important trend: the number of people who list TV as their main source of information has decreased once again after a short surge at the beginning of the war. The share of people who get information from Internet sources has continued to grow. In Moscow, an equal number of people watch TV and use the internet as their primary source of information. 30% of people use Telegram channels, and despite the internet blockade and slowdown, the proportion of those who rely on social media for information has not decreased. People who watch TV support the regime by 7-15 percentage points more than those who use the internet.  

The Levada Center website has published a short review of data from its June study on media consumption in Russia. It encompasses the structure of their sources of information about current events. “Television remains the most common source of information for Russians. In Moscow, however, internet sources have become as popular as television. To add to this, TV is less trusted among Moscovites than in Russia on the whole”, — according to the authors of the review. In Russia, television was mentioned as a source of information by an average of 63% of respondents in June, while in Moscow that number was only 52%. Internet media was mentioned by 32% of respondents across Russia and by 50% of Moscovites. Finally, 16% of respondents in Russia and 30% of Moscovites mentioned Telegram as a source of information.

In this particular case, Moscow acts as the leading indicator of a general trend that emerged in the late 2010s: television becoming a thing of the past. TV does, however, still remain an important source of information for the elderly. The Levada Center provides a graph demonstrating the changing importance of different sources of information. Re: Russia publishes a more detailed overview in Figures 1 and 2.

Figure 1. The trend of references to various sources of information by respondents, 2013–2021, % of the number of respondents


Figure 2. Trends regarding how various sources of information are mentioned by respondents, July 2021 — June 2022, % of the number of respondents


By the end of the 2010s the importance of traditional sources of information such as television, radio, newspapers and magazines decreased. At the same time, online media, social networks and instant messengers started becoming more and more popular. In the early 2010s, TV was mentioned by about 90% of people as a source of information, but by the early 2020s that figure stood at just over 60%. This means that over the span of a decade, TV dropped in popularity by 1,5 times. By the beginning of 2020, online media and social networks were mentioned more than radio, newspapers and magazines combined, and mentions of social networks exceeded the amount of online media mentions.

At the same time, media consumption acquired a distinct age profile: information sources for younger ages (18–39 years old) and the over-55 year old group looks almost like a mirrored image (Fig. 3). For the former, social networks and Telegram account for 42% of all mentioned sources of information, while TV accounts for less than 25%. For the latter, television still makes up almost half of all sources of information, while the share of social networks and Telegram is only 16%. It should be noted that these are two groups of approximately equal size — each of them account for about 37% of the adult population. The age group of 40–54 year olds sits between the two in terms of the structure of its media consumption, but is clearly closer to the younger group.

Figure 3. Structure of information sources for different age groups, June 2022

Since the beginning of the war, two significant changes have occured in regards to media consumption. Firstly, Telegram channels experienced a sharp increase in usage. In 2020–2021 Telegram was mentioned as a source of information by an average of 6% of respondents, but that number stood at 16% between April and June. It could be assumed that this change reflects the consequences of the blockade and slowdown of Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter in Russia, but polling data does not confirm this. In 2021 an average of 40% of people used social media, and that number was at 39% between March and June of 2022. The predictable surge of interest towards TV after the outbreak of the war turned out to be short-lived. In March, references to TV reached 70%, but by May had fallen to the same levels as in 2021 — an average of 63%. 

As a result, the combined number of times social media and Telegram were given as a source of information amounted to 55% in June 2022. This is almost the same amount as the mentions of TV. This means that the war strengthened the recent trend of social media snatching and diverting the attention of people who follow the news. 

Finally, based on the Levada Center’s most recent June survey, we can better understand the preferences and characteristics of respondents who rely on different sources of information (see Table 1). People who focus on traditional sources of information (TV, radio, print media) exhibit loyalty levels 7–11 points higher than people who use online and social media as their primary source of news. The difference between this group and Telegram channel readers is 12–15 points. It’s important to note that the adequacy of data on sensitive topics such as the level of approval of the authorities and support for the military operation in Ukraine in an authoritarian regime and during wartime are the subject of extensive discussion. The level of loyalty revealed in surveys may be overestimated. Although the number of people getting information from social media has not decreased, overall, this audience seems to currently exhibit higher levels of loyalty than readers of online media.

Table 1. Preferences and social characteristics of groups who use different sources of information, % of the number of respondents

Traditional media: TV, radio, newspapers, magazines 

Online media

Social media

Telegram channels

Things are moving in the right direction





Approve of Putin





Financial situation has deteriorated over the past year





The economy will get worse in the next 12 months 





Worry about the situation in Ukraine





Support the actions of the Russian troops in Ukraine





Hold a university degree





Income of more than 50 thousand rubles





Managing director, manager, specialist 










Production and agricultural workers





Levada Center data, “Courier” study, representative sample N = 1628.

Despite the fact that people who read Telegram channels tend to have a high level of material wealth, they also exhibit a heightened awareness of the crisis associated with economic sanctions. 40% of those who read Telegram channels and online media outlets said their financial situation has worsened over the past year, compared to around 30% of people who consume traditional media and social media. People who are regular internet users tend to be more pessimistic: 40% of those who read Telegram channels believe that the situation will worsen over the next 12 months, compared to 30–35% of social and online media users, and only 24% of the traditional media cohort. 

As mentioned before, the most important distinguishing characteristic related to the type of media people use is age. Upon closer examination, however, we can say that there is a wide social gap between TV viewers and those who use the internet as their main news source. Among TV viewers, a little more than 25% have a university degree, and among those who get information from Telegram and online media, the figure stands at about 40%. Half of Telegram users have an income of more than 50 thousand rubles, while only a quarter of TV viewers make the same amount of money. Finally, among TV viewers, 55% are pensioners and unskilled workers, while among those who get information from online media and social networks they make up about 30%, and among readers of Telegram channels — just over 20%.