Russian TV Viewing Figures Falling Amid Coverage of Ukraine Invasion

The latest television viewing numbers suggest that Russian audiences could be growing tired of war-related content on state-run media outlets.

According to a report from The Moscow Times, an independent online newspaper now based in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, a recent survey conducted by the independent Rosmir polling center found that a quarter of Russian viewers are switching their TVs off to avoid the Kremlin's pro-war propaganda on state-run stations like Channel-1, Rossiya-1 and NTV.

Only 65 percent of the survey's respondents said they were watching state-run TV stations now, six months after the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 —or, as it's known in Russia, "the special military operation" in Ukraine.

That's a steep drop from the 86 percent of respondents who said were watching state-run TV stations at the start of the war.

Russia TV Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends an annual televised phone-in with the country's citizens "Direct Line with Vladimir Putin" at Moscow's World Trade Center studio on June 30, 2021. Only 65 percent of Russian audiences are watching state-run channels, compared to 86 percent at the beginning of the war in Ukraine, a new survey found. In this photo, SERGEI SAVOSTYANOV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

Since the beginning of the war, Russia's state-run TV stations and its pro-Kremlin hosts and guests have been spreading Russian President Vladimir Putin's position on the war in Ukraine, defending the righteousness of Moscow troops' intervention in the neighboring country and blaming the international community and Western countries for encouraging a widespread anti-Russian sentiment.

TV hosts and guests also made several threats against Western countries supporting Ukraine since the beginning of the war, often warning against Russia reacting by launching nuclear weapons against Ukraine and the West if provoked.

Though none of these claims have been officially backed by the Kremlin, the understanding is that those talking about the war on state-run stations have Putin's ideological blessing, as the government-linked channels are considered the president's main way to reach and influence the Russian public's opinion.

Viewing figures would now suggest that non-stop pro-war propaganda on Russia's state-run channels has tired audiences, an idea that appears to be confirmed by the loss of support for the war another recent survey showed.

Opinion polls reported by The Moscow Times suggested that only 55 percent of people in Russia are in favor of the war, compared to 66 percent a few months ago. This data might not reflect the real amount of public support for the war as in Russia, as many respondents might be hiding their true feelings in fear of a government's backlash.

But another reason might be that the general war fatigue in Russia combined with the heavy impact of Western sanctions, which have made life that much harder —and more expensive— in Russia, potentially contributing to a sense of dissatisfaction towards the government.

On the other hand, it's hard to estimate how Russians really feel about the war and their president. Putin's approval rate at home is still quite high —a Levada Centre's poll in May gave him 88 percent of approval.

On the other hand, a global poll by the Pew Research Center surveying respondents across 18 nations in June found that Putin has become the most unpopular leader in the world.

Update 08/25/2022, 12:43 p.m. ET: This article was updated with additional background information about The Moscow Times.