Survey: Kremlin channels lose significance with Russian-speakers in Estonia

Stenbock House, seat of the Estonian government.
Stenbock House, seat of the Estonian government. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

A ban on pro-Kremlin, Russian-language TV channels broadcasting in Estonia put in place last month has led to a sharp decline in their significance to Russian-speaking people in Estonia, according to a recent survey.

While this may seem likely since the channels are not viewable inside Estonia in any case, the ban was put in place recently, while former viewers in Estonia may also hear about the activities of the channels in question from those viewing outside the country.

The survey, commissioned by the government office and conducted by market research firm  Turu-uuringute AS, found that while at the end of February, 37 percent of Estonian inhabitants of "other nationalities", meaning in practice Russian-speaking people, mentioned the main Kremlin-controlled TV channels among their top three most important sources of information, in mid-March this percentage had fallen to 32 percent, and dwindled to just 19 percent at the end of that month.

While the bans on TV channels started soon after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and some online portals were barred as recently as this week, the data has to also be taken in the light of changes to the questionnaire's format, which singled out Russian news portals as a separate response category.

At the same time, credence can be given to the assumption that Kremlin propaganda channels are in any case less significant, given that the percentage of respondents who found these channels reliable has also fallen – from 36 percent among respondents of "other nationalities" at the end of February, to 25 percent a month later.

The share of people who trust Russian media as a whole – be it online news portals or TV channels – has also fallen, from 40 percent to 30 percent, over the same time-frame and among the same demographic.

On the question of the trustworthiness of news channels on the specific topic of the Russia-Ukraine war, respondents of other nationalities gave the most support to Estonian channels as most reliable (36 percent of respondents) followed by Russian news channels (26 percent), "western" news channels (24 percent) and Ukrainian news channels in fourth place, at 15 percent.

While confidence in Russian news' coverage of the conflict fell in the first half of March, from 34 percent saying they were confident to 27 percent, in the second half of the month, no significant changes were reported.

89 percent of Estonian respondents to the survey said they trusted Estonian-language news sources' coverage of the conflict.

Turu-tutkimusute AS conducted the latest survey via web and over the phone, over the period March 25-29, and polled 1,256 residents aged 15 and over nationwide.

The government office commissioned the survey.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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