1. People’s needs for economic information and possibilities of their satisfaction

Many sociologists have emphasized the significant interest of Belarusian people in economic information which is explained by such factors as: 1) the understanding by the majority of the population of the relations between the economic strategy of the state and their own financial and social situation; 2) the necessity to form their own strategy of survival and achievement of high living standards based on a good orientation in the current economic situation; 3) a certain confidence in the possibility of receiving true information based on the existence of various information sources.

Among the sources of economic information, the press is the most important. TV channels occupy second place although they are leaders as far as audiences’ trust is concerned. Interestingly, almost the same percentage of Belarusian audiences trust state-run and non-state TV channels of the same level. For instance, 5.8% of the population fully trust local state-run TV and 4.9% trust local non-state channels.

Although different groups of audiences have interest for different channels, the very existence of alternative sources of information should be recognized as the most important peculiarity of the modern informational environment. A national opinion poll conducted by IISEPS has proves this idea. 58.8% of the respondents believe that “a person should work out his own standpoint based on the critical evaluation of information taken from various sources, both state and non-state ones”.

What are the real possibilities for the satisfaction of the need for information in the modern Belarusian society? Currently, a complicated system of mass media exists in Belarus. In 1997, about 800 periodicals and more than 200 TV channels and radio stations were registered in this country most of which are non-state companies. Despite the significant number of non-state media, their actual activities are incomparable to those of state-run media. For instance, Belarusian state-run TV has its offices in all regional centers of the country and has a weekly air time of 100 hours. There are about 20 non-state TV stations in Belarus which broadcast to small areas, several dozens of cable channels which operate in big cities’ districts and several TV companies that produce their own original programs but do not have their own time on the air, such as FIT TV. On average, a non-state TV channel broadcasts for 41.2 hours weekly, of which only seven hours are their own original programs which include news, commentary and analysis of different topics including economics.

These figures show that the audiences’ opportunities to receive various interpretations of economic processes, are restricted. However, the existence of an alternative to the official standpoint is a positive fact. A comparative content analysis of economic programs on state and non-state TV allows us to see the difference in their approaches and views and, consequently, analyze that range of choice which TV audiences currently have.

Two programs were chosen for a comparative analysis: “Economicst”, the most famous and respected program of non-state TV and the economic section of “Panarama”, the daily news program on Belarusian state-run TV. 324 reports from “Economicst” and 358 reports from “Panarama” were considered on the principles of content analysis.

2. Value models of modern economy in programs of state-run and non-state TV

Topics discussed in the two economic programs are represented in Table 1. In “Panarama”, the most frequent topic is agriculture followed by the manufacturing industry, transport and communications, finance, social sphere, services and trade. In “Economicst” programs, priorities are different: manufacturing industry and finance are most important than agriculture. The social sphere and trade attract less attention, similarly to “Panarama”. In “Panarama”, 4.5% of all reports are based on “psychologically close” topics which are understandable to every citizen, usually these are reports on social sphere. In “Economicst” programs, the proportion of such reports is 9.1%, however this figure is not optimal, either. Both programs often refer to “psychologically remote” topics such as the organization and regulation of the economy, the legislative base, international contacts of enterprises, macroeconomic indicators, price formation, sales of goods and investment. Among “psychologically close” topics, working conditions, payment of wages, unemployment, the problem of housing and banking services for ordinary citizens are most often referred to. The first major difference between the two programs is in that “Panarama” mostly covers the situation in the state sector of the economy (79.7% of all reports). In only 20.3% of all reports problems of the non-state sector are discussed. On the contrary, “Economicst” concentrates on activities in the non-state sector of the economy. 50.7% of its reports are focused on non-state enterprises while the remaining 49.3% deal with the state-run economy.

Table 1. Total numbers of reports on each topic, %


The manufacturing industry, transport and communications



Social sphere and services












State sector (psychologically distant topics)











State sector (psychologically close topics)











Non-state sector (psychologically distant topics)











Non-state sector (psychologically close topics)






















Values promoted in reports on various topics were also considered. In accordance with results of content analysis of “Panarama” programs, a clear and simple strategy of interpreting the economic reality can be seen. First, “Panarama” practically avoids mentioning the most important values of both market and state-controlled economy. Such values as private property, privatization and entrepreneurship or strengthening of the state sector, state property, equality of incomes, collectivism and social justice are not used for the description of either private or the state sector of the economy. Reports on state-run enterprises contain references to clearly formulated values 3.2 times more often than those on the non-state sector. Reports on state-run agricultural companies contain 5.4 times more clearly formulated values than those on non-state agriculture. To some extent, this is explained by the fact that the depiction of the state-run economy allows to use standard cliches and approaches while values of the non-state sector are still new and can seem not very obvious or even dubious. When the state sector of the economy is depicted, such stereotypes as administrative regulation and protectionism are often used.

The same values are promoted in “Panarama’s” reports on non-state companies whereby administrative regulation is dominating. However, a change has taken place. In “Panarama” reports on non-state economic activities, the necessity of observing ethical norms and legal documents in business is underscored. Such an approach seems natural given statements about the criminalization of private business and the desire of the state and public opinion to curb it by legal and ethical means.

“Economicst’s” strategy of promoting values is more straightforward and clear. Its reports promote clearly expressed values. “Economicst” reports do not mention values which relate to the Soviet economy such as the equality of incomes and collectivism. Values of market economy, such as private ownership, entrepreneurship, market regulation and competition are mentioned often.

Upon analyzing values supported or not supported by the two programs, a contradiction becomes evident. “Panarama” supports market reforms but does not say about the importance of privatization while the importance of private ownership and business is not mentioned at all. Therefore, market reforms in “Panarama” are only a symbol which has no practical content. “Economicst”, on the contrary, emphasizes privatization as the basis for reforms while the abstract and symbolic term “market reforms” is used less often. There is another contradiction. In “Panarama” reports, the importance of legal regulation is accompanied by the denial of such value as the equality of various forms of ownership. The importance of the law is not explained as the necessity to regulate relations of ownership and protect private property. The most important contradiction in “Economicst” reports is that free competition and protectionism are both promoted.

3. Subjects of opinions

Information broadcast on TV always contains different opinions and ideas which belong to different people called subjects of opinions. The aim of this research is not only to see which values are promoted by the two programs but also to find out who forms them (see Table 2).

Table 2. Subjects of opinions, %

More than a half of subjects of “Panarama” reports are journalists themselves. Another large group of subjects consists of senior state officials. It is possible to say that heads of state-run enterprises and (in lesser degree) local officials and experts take part in forming values promote by “Panarama” economic reports. The subjects of “Economicst’s” opinions are different. Two groups are almost equally represented, journalists and experts. Three more groups can be defined, senior officials, foreign businessmen and heads of enterprises.

Based on the type of experts invited, the two programs can be given a precise characteristics. “Economicst” is a specialized program which offers a wide range of opinions by different specialists in the field of economics. Economic reports of “Panarama” seem to be to politically motivated as too many senior officials are invited as experts. Analysis and estimations are made mostly by journalists which makes reports biased.

Beyond doubt, ideology of the program influences experts’ opinions. However, each type of experts has its own style and values which they defend regardless of the program they take part in. Senior officials have less definite values. In both “Economicst” and “Panarama” reports they defend reforms, privatization as well as the administrative control over the economy. However, they express their support for administrative and legal regulation in a more definite way. Heads of state-run enterprises stand up for both market values such as profits and professionalism and non-market values, such as the state regulation of the economy. Experts, scientists, domestic and foreign businessmen express pro-market values and opinions.

Based on the total number of experts invited and the number of their clear and unambiguous statements, it was possible to determine, which groups of experts more often produce clear statements. Such groups are senior officials and businessmen. Both groups produce on average 2.4 clear statements in their comments. Experts and scientists are more rational: the average number of clear statements per one comment is 1.4.

4. The dominating values in the visual structure of reports

On TV, not only words are important but also the picture which can strengthen or weaken the overall effect. It can complement and emphasize the content of the report or, even, contradict it. Therefore, the visual structure of economic reports was also analyzed (see Table 3).

Table 3. The visual representation of information in the programs “Economicst” and “Panarama”, %

“Economicst” reports often picture a modern office equipped with computers in which experts comment on economic processes. Another frequently used image is a roundtable discussion of a problem. A roundtable is used more often than a more official conference hall or a tribune. The latter means that the speaker is in the center of attention and, in some degree, above the audiences. A roundtable denies such inequality. Only few reports of “Economicst” are made in offices of senior officials or in front of administrative buildings, such as the House of the Government and the Presidential Administration which is characteristic of the professional and business-like style of the program as opposed to the official style. At the same time, the proportion of reports which picture production facilities, construction sites or collective farm fields is low. There are almost no reports filmed in private apartments or houses. The program gives an impression of a professional and competent discussion of economic problems rather than depicting the problem itself.

The video structure of “Panarama” reports significantly differs from that of “Economicst” reports. The most frequent setting of “Economicst” reports, a modern business office or a roundtable, are rare. Usually, the setting is an office of a senior official or a conference hall with a tribune. Reports filmed in front of administrative buildings are also few as journalists try to emphasize that they can easily enter these buildings and are in some way integrated with them. “Panarama’s” images depict the solution of a problem by administrative means rather than the problem itself or its discussion. Speaking from a tribune or addressing TV audiences from their offices, senior officials propose what they think is the only possible solution to the problem rather than want to discuss it.

5. The main conclusions

The first conclusion is that the program “Economicst” has practically no alternative on state-run TV. Economic reports of “Panarama” can be considered an alternative to it only in some aspects:

1. “Economicst” is focused on the non-state sector of the economy while “Panarama” mostly deals with the state sector (this is expressed in the number of reports).

2. “Economicst” is an expert program aimed at the professional interpretation of the economic reality. Its authors are experts and scientists and the program’s visual image emphasizes professionalism and the absence of political involvement. “Panarama” openly expresses its support for the official views on economics. Its visual image is that of a middleman between people and the authorities.

3. Some aspects of the two programs’ contents can also be considered alternative to each other, in particular reports on market and administrative regulation. But “Economicst” programs consistently promote market values while “Panarama” economic reports simply avoid mentioning many values, both pro-market and anti-market, and prefer to appeal to values symbolic rather than clear and definite. Therefore “Panarama” opinions become vague and ambiguous and cannot be an alternative to the clear structure of information presented in “Economicst”. Economic reports of “Panarama” are dull rather than alternative to “Economicst”.

The very important question of the influence of both programs on their audiences’ values and models of behavior cannot be answered without analyzing the audiences themselves.

According to the IISEPS data, in early 1998, “Panarama” was more or less frequently watched by 51.1% of the country’s adult population and “Economicst” by 15.55. Therefore, “Panarama” has a better potential opportunity to shape its audiences’ values. However, values promoted by the program are expressed vaguely and inconsistently. (The importance of administrative control is recognized alongside with that of market reforms without privatization and private ownership.) This confuses audiences rather than gives them orientation. “Economicst” programs have not had access to targeted audiences which leave the population in the situation of informational deficit.

N. Efimova, Ph. D.