Sometimes it seems as if Vladimir Putin’s presidency has been made for television. His bare-chested exploits on horseback, microlight flights with cranes and the fighting in Ukraine and Syria were planned with the cameras in mind. Having helped turn a little-known kgb officer into a patriotic icon, television has sustained him in power. But recently, there are signs that the spell of Russia’s gogglebox is weakening. Meanwhile, ever more Russians look to the internet for their news.
Russia’s state-controlled broadcast channels must now compete with social-media stars, YouTubers and online activists (see article). Over the past decade trust in television has fallen from 80% to below 50%; 82% of 18- to 44-year-olds use YouTube and news is its fourth-most-watched category. Some vloggers have audiences that dwarf those of the nightly newscasts.