Ukrainians tired of ‘state propaganda’ on TV – NYT
Ukrainian viewers are turning away from Telemarathon United News, a round-the-clock multi-channel broadcast set up as single source of televised information about the conflict with Russia, because it has turned into a “little more than a mouthpiece for the government,” the New York Times has reported.
Telemarathon United News was created on the order of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and gets 40% its funding from the government. Opposition channels have been denied participation in the project.
The broadcast has been jointly produced by Ukraine’s six leading networks since the start of the fighting between Moscow and Kiev in early 2022. The NYT report this week described the 24/7 broadcast as “a major tool of Ukraine’s information war,” which was “crucial… for holding the country together.”
But, after two years of conflict, “Ukrainians have grown weary of Telemarathon,” the paper acknowledged. Viewers now increasingly complain that it “often paints too rosy a picture of the war, hiding worrying developments on the frontline and the West’s eroding support for Ukraine,” it said.
Telemarathon’s audience has shrunk from 40% of Ukraine’s total viewership in March 2022 to just 10%, according Svetlana Ostapa, deputy chief editor of Detector Media, a Ukrainian media watchdog.
“Everyone is fed up with this picture that says ‘We’re winning, everyone likes us and gives us money,’” the head of the Kiev-based Institute of Mass Information, told the NYT. “It’s state propaganda.”
Detector Media’s Igor Kulias said that throughout 2023, Telemarathon had emphasized “the effectiveness and skill of the Ukrainian forces,” while Russian troops were portrayed “as being in a state of panic, experiencing significant losses and surrendering en masse.” However, it was “a completely different reality” from what was actually happening on the ground, he pointed out.
According to Kulias’ data, more than 68% of the political guests of the program last year were from Zelensky’s Servant of the People party.
Golos party MP Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, who heads the Ukrainian parliament’s committee on freedom of speech, claimed earlier this month that Telemarathon had blinded people to the fact that the conflict with Russia would be a prolonged one and would require more sacrifices.
The NYT stressed that the experts see Ukrainian viewers switching away from Telemarathon, often to reality shows and entertainment programs, as “a sign of wider popular disenchantment with the government, as victory on the battlefield becomes elusive.”