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MASS MEDIA ARE THE UNUSED RESOURCE OF THE BELARUSIAN DEMOCRACY

It seems that Belarusian politicians are not fully aware of the country that we live in. The Belarusian people have a lot to do before this society may correspond to the standards of an informational society (see Table 7). Therefore, the ways to affect public opinions must be chosen correspondingly. Today’s public leaders, i.e. people who can really affect the decision-making, confidently think that mass media are the most efficient means to convey their message to the general public (Table 1). Those who represent non-government structures do not have access to state-controlled mass media and have work with non-government media. At the same time, state media can be and are actively used by the representatives of state structures according to a Soviet propaganda tradition.According to the results of the survey, today’s mass media are second only to official government agencies in their ability to affect social life. The trust in state-controlled media is higher as in non-government media (Table 2).

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question “Which channels can you use to efficiently express your opinion to the general public?”, %

Answer
Elite survey, 07’00
total
of them, representatives of
non-state structures
government structures
Non-government mass media
56.7
77.1
28.0
Government mass media
31.7
17.1
52.0
Meeting people
30.0
28.6
32.0
Public associations
26.7
28.6
24.0
Public meetings
25.0
28.6
20.0
Talking to colleagues
20.0
17.1
24.0
Trade unions
15.0
17.1
12.0
Political parties
11.7
17.1
4.0
Other
8.3
8.6
8.0

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question “Do you trust in the following state and public institutions”*, %

State and public institutions
I trust in them
I do not trust in them
DA/NA
Index of trust*
Army
56.7
21.2
20.3
+0.362
Church
54.
19.7
23.7
+0.358
State research centers
31.3
17.8
48.0
+0.139
President
44.3
31.0
23.1
+0.135
Government mass media
47.5
34.5
16.3
+0.133
Non-government research centers
23.6
21.8
51.4
+0.019
OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus
20.6
22.2
54.2
-0.017
Government-controlled trade unions
28.5
32.7
35.2
-0.044
Central Election Committee
25.1
34.3
38.2
-0.094
Unions of businessmen
19.5
29.4
47.3
-0.103
Free and independent trade unions
20.7
32.0
44.5
-0.113
Government
30.0
41.9
26.2
-0.122
KGB
25.8
38.5
33.6
-0.130
Non-government mass media
27.6
42.3
28.4
-0.149
National Assembly
19.8
34.9
43.1
-0.154
Courts
28.5
49.5
19.9
-0.215
Local authorities
23.8
52.1
21.6
-0.289
XIII Parliament
8.9
42.6
46.3
-0.344
Police
23.5
56.5
18.2
-0.336
Political parties
9.1
44.6
42.1
-0.371

* The index of trust may be in the range of +1 to –1 and is a correlation between the sum of positive answers “I trust in them” and negative answers “I do not trust in them”, and the number of all respondents, who answered the question

Table 3. Distribution of answers to the question “From which sources do you get the information about the activities of Belarusian political parties, independent and free trade unions, other opposition groups “, %

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question about television channels, which people watch and trust, %

Television channel
I watch it
I do not watch it
NA
Index of trust*
NTV
51.2
40.5
8.3
+0.561
RTR
72.7
21.6
5.7
+0.528
ORT
90.5
6.4
3.1
+0.514
Local television channel
33.9
51.8
14.3
+0.350
Belarusian state television
72.1
22.3
5.6
+0.310
Satellite TV
8.1
75.0
16.9
-0.092
Polish television
10.0
72.6
17.4
-0.108

* The index of trust may be in the range of +1 to –1 and is a correlation between the sum of positive answers “I trust in them” and negative answers “I do not trust in them”, and the number of all respondents, who answered the question

Perhaps, this is so because non-government media were repeatedly presented as opposition media (for instance, A. Zimovsky’s favorite cat-chphrase to describe them is “media, controlled by the opposition”) and were dubbed as self-interested representatives of the Western interests. Considering the low circulations of independent media, compared to those of state newspapers, and unequal conditions of their distribution, we cannot put a blind eye on the constantly increasing role of Russian television channels and Belarusian FM-stations in the formation of mass thinking of Belarusian people (Tables 3, 4). While Radio Liberty and other foreign channels lost the wide audience and great importance that they had during the Soviet times, FM-channels steadily attract new listeners and have the highest index of trust among radios (Table 5).

Table 5. Distribution of answers to the question about radio channels, which people listen in to and trust, %

Radio
I listen in
I do not listen in
NA
Index of trust*
FM-radios (“BA”, “Roks”, “Alpha-Radio”, “Stiel” etc.)
33.1
56.5
10.4
+0.571
Russian radios
30.2
57.5
12.3
+0.467
Local radio
34.2
53.6
12.2
+0.466
Belarusian state radio
53.8
38.3
7.9
+0.492
Belarusian service of “Radio Liberty”
7.1
78.8
14.1
-0.255
Russian service of “Radio Liberty”
4.2
81.4
14.4
-0.340
Other Western radios
4.6
81.1
14.3
-0.439

* The index of trust may be in the range of +1 to –1 and is a correlation between the sum of positive answers “I trust in them” and negative answers “I do not trust in them”, and the number of all respondents, who answered the question

Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question about newspapers, which people read and trust, %

Newspaper
I read it
I do not read it
NA
Index of trust*
Local newspaper
42.3
47.7
10.0
+0.670
“Agrumenty i Fakty” v Belarusi
25.6
61.9
12.5
+0.612
“Komsomolskaya Pravda” v Belarusi
21.0
65.5
13.5
+0.524
“Sovetskaya Belorussiya”
29.4
58.5
12.1
+0.514
“Narodnaya Gazeta”
12.1
73.7
14.2
+0.136
“Narodnaya Volya”
9.8
75.6
14.6
+0.119
“Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta”
7.4
77.7
14.9
+0.115
“Trood” v Belarusi
7.4
76.6
16.0
+0.108
“Izvestiya” v Belarusi
6.4
76.6
17.0
+0.052
“Respublika”
12.4
73.5
14.1
+0.047
“Znamya Yunosti”
7.2
77.3
15.5
+0.045
“Svobodnye Novosti”
6.1
79.3
14.6
+0.040
“Belorusskiy Rynok”
4.7
80.0
15.3
-0.075
“Belorusskaya Gazeta”
4.4
80.1
15.5
-0.161
“Nasha niva”
3.4
80.8
15.8
-0.163
“Zvyazda”
4.7
79.7
15.6
-0.194
“Nasha svaboda”
2.6
81.9
15.5
-0.222
“Rabochy”
2.0
82.5
15.5
-0.301

* The index of trust may be in the range of +1 to –1 and is a correlation between the sum of positive answers “I trust in them” and negative answers “I do not trust in them”, and the number of all respondents, who answered the question

Table 7. Do you use:


According to the results of the survey, ORT and RTR have a bigger audience and enjoy higher trust than the Belarusian state television (Table 4). NTV has the highest index of trust, but it hardly broadcasts over a half of the territory of Belarus. This means that amateur propaganda is considered worse than professional approach to information and good propaganda by the audience. It is clear that the battle for access to government television must be continued because all Belarusian people pay taxes for its operation, irrespective of their political views. At the same time, it makes sense getting to know how to use other, more widely broadcast, efficient and accessible information channels, merely because they exist.It is understood that their importance will increase in the future. The broadcasting format of these channels, allowed by the authorities, does not let them give coverage to political developments. Nevertheless, the very existence of FM-radios shows listeners that there is a different life – a life, where the “battles to collect the harvest” and official conferences are unimportant. Normally, the listeners of FM-radios do not care about politics. However, they represent anew generation. It would have been great if opposition leaders could use FM-radio channels to freely speak about things and their views about the most vexed problems in society. But since there is no such possibility, maybe it could make sense talking with the listeners of these radios about their problems suing their language. Then maybe they will understand that opposition leaders belong to their generation, they like rock music better than “Dazhynki”, they do not read “Sovetskaya Belorusskiya” and do not surf government web-sites.