Foreseeable enough, the easily accessible television remains the main source of public, political, social and economic information to most of Belarusians (81.3%). Printed mass media ranks second (62.5%) and is 1.5 times more popular than radio (42.7%). However, person-to-person contacts are not among important sources of information in the era of contemporary mass communications (4.5%) and the Internet has not become easy-to-access so far (2.0%). Belarusians trust the television (28.6%), the press (13.8%) and the radio (8.1%) most.

As far as TV channels are concerned, except for the noticeable slide in the popularity of the Belarusian BT channel (by 10%), the tendencies are steady, i.e. the rating of the ORT is on the rise, that of the NTV is declining (it has been ever since the old NTV team left), and that of the RTR remains practically unchanged (See Table 1). Apart from the political calm noted above, changes in the face, although not in the top leadership of the BT channel, that official agitation and propaganda department, might also be a reason why fewer people have been watching it recently in the capital and the major cities of Belarus. Some of the programs broadcast on the eve of the presidential election were odious but attracted much attention; after the election, they were replaced with gray and dull programs that do not cause even a slightest curiosity.

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “Which TV channels do you watch?”, % (more than one answer is possible)

* In the given opinion poll this question was put like follows – “Programs of which TV channels do you regularly watch?”
** No data

Unlike the BT’s one, the popularity of the Belarusian radio has long been declining and, judging by appearances, will continue to (See Table 2). FM radio stations are winning the audience over from both the Belarusian and the Russian radio stations, for they are becoming more and more numerous and are creating better and better programs yearly. Minimum of politics and maximum of useful information, entertainment and music, as well as modern approaches are the keys to the success of FM radio stations.

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “Which radio stations do you listen to?”, % (more than one answer is possible)

* In the given opinion poll this question was put like follows – “Which radio stations do you regularly listen to?”
** No data

In the Belarusian printed mass media market, non-state editions have long competed with the state ones successfully. Yet, as compared to the previous survey held straight after the presidential election, the public has lost its interest towards independent mass media, the Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus being the only exception to the rule (See Table 3 displaying an enviably steady growth in its rating). That is quite normal; people usually read more during mass political campaigns and so they did last autumn, the circulation of practically all non-state newspapers surging in October as a result; however, as soon as the presidential election campaign was over, the political Olympus stopped causing that much interest and the demand for information went down.

Table 3. Distribution of answers to the question: “Which newspapers do you read?”, % (more than one answer is possible)

* In the given opinion poll this question was put like follows – “Which newspapers do you regularly read?”
** The given newspapers were not mentioned in these polls

Bearing in mind the difference between state and non-state mass media as far as the financial support, the contents and the working conditions are concerned, one is welcome to see the dynamics of trust towards both on the part of Belarusian nationals (See Table 4). The “credibility gap” (let us call it so) is evident. Twice as many people have come to distrust state mass media and almost twice as many people have lost their confidence in independent mass media over the past five years. At that, the level of confidence in state editions has remained almost unchanged all through the period, which means that the official press has gained no new supporters.

Table 4. Dynamics of trust towards mass media, %

Variant of answer
State-run mass media
– trust
– do not trust
Non-state mass media
– trust
– do not trust
As far as independent mass media are concerned, their readers and viewers are beginning to get more numerous after their confidence towards them was on the decline. On the whole, one can assert at a stretch that attitudes of Belarusians to the two different segments of the Belarusian press are practically the same.
Why has this happened? Why, so to speak, such a disappointment in the press? As far as state mass media are concerned, the situation is more or less clear. Being part of the agitation and propaganda machine, they keep telling the news about the country as the authorities demand and not as the things are. No more than 11.5% of respondents believe the official information completely in line with the real state of affaires; 66.7% of those questioned say, the official information is only partially true and 16.1% say, it is totally untrue.
The economy is decaying, President’s rating is falling, the number of his convinced opponents is growing, yet no increase in the trust towards independent mass media is visible. Why? Has it not been the Prometheus of an alternative viewpoint recently? It is a well-known fact that the positions of convinced opponents and supporters of A. Lukashenko are diametrically opposite with regard to crucial issues. So are their attitudes towards the press but for a small and extremely important exception.
As many as 82.2% of A. Lukashenko’s supporters trust state mass media and as many as 11.2% trust non-state mass media (6.6% and 70.4% respectively do not). As many as 11.3% of A. Lukashenko’s opponents trust state mass media and as many as 42.9% trust non-state mass media, while 72.8% and 40% (!) respectively do not. The latter indicator not only destroys the “mirror-like” picture of supporters and opponents’ positions, but also points at the fact that, strangely enough, the democratic-minded voters distrust the democratic-minded press.
It will not be out of place to remark here that among independent newspapers, it is those that deliberately cover no or little politics (like The Argumenty i Facty in Belarus, The Komsomolskaya Pravda in Belarus) that are popular. This does not mean that the opposition newspapers should avoid covering politics – in that case they will lose their traditional readers – yet, in selecting political information for the issue, they should remember the well-known but never outdated criteria such as objectiveness, timeliness and comprehensiveness. Namely, the viewpoints of all the parties involved ought to be covered, which unfortunately the Belarusian independent press may seldom be proud of. That is exactly what today’s readers want: not just political or economic information, which is not insufficient at present, but objective and truthful information. One fourth of those questioned said so. He who is fastest to meet that demand shall reap laurels.