Changes in media consumption of Ukrainians due to the Russian full-scale invasion affected the approaches of media editorial offices and other content makers to the dissemination of their information. Experts from the media and relevant NGOs discussed this during the discussion "What is becoming the main source of citizens for news updates, politics and security" during the Donbas Media Forum, held in Kyiv on November, 10-11.

According to OPORA's research on media consumption of Ukrainians in Ukraine during the second year of the full-scale Russian invasion, 77.9% of respondents use social networks for news updates. This number has slightly increased compared to last year's survey (76.6%). On the other hand, television as a source of information has become slightly less popular – 62.5% (66.7% last year). Similarly, Ukrainians in the United Kingdom, Israel, Spain, Germany, the United States, Hungary, and the Czech Republic consume 50% of news about Ukraine from channels and groups in messengers, and only 8% rely on television.

Anastasiia Romaniuk, analyst of the Civil Network OPORA and a moderator at the discussion, believes that given how the content-consuming behavior of Ukrainians is changing, it is important for content makers to carefully study the platforms and tools they use to share their materials. "As OPORA's survey shows, with the full-scale invasion, the media landscape and media consumption of Ukrainians have changed dramatically. While earlier, television and traditional media retained their leading positions, after a full-scale invasion, social networks, such as messengers, broke out to the forefront, both among Ukrainians staying in Ukraine and among Ukrainians abroad. About half of OPORA's respondents abroad receive news about what is happening in Ukraine from messengers, "she said.

She also emphasized that it is worth remembering about the risks of those messengers that we use as tools for disseminating our information. “For example, Telegram is the tool we know the least about. It resists the most to a regular monitoring. Throughout its functioning in the Ukrainian market, Telegram is the least consistent regarding Ukraine, " highlighted the analyst of digital platforms.

According to the head of the department of the National Institute for Strategic Studies and the expert of the National Platform for Sustainability and Cohesion, Yulia Kaplan, in the fall of 2022, they conducted a study of media consumption. With this survey, hey wanted to find a formula for the sustainability of Ukrainian society. According to her, the role of a telethon is positive for people for the cohesion of society only, but information and news were received mainly from Telegram channels.

"Telegram is very accessible, it has no restrictions. When the Internet is bad, information from Telegram channels can still be seen, for example, even if there is no electricity and Internet connection, "she said. – For people, Telegram has become essential not as a source of information only, but also as a communication platform. If we talk about the occupied territories, it was the connection with Ukraine, which usually was the only one available. And it was extremely important for them to have it. "

In general, Telegram channels of 17 settlements were studied. The settlement types can be divided into several categories: occupied, de-occupied, frontline, and the rear. 2.3 million posts in 427 channels were analyzed. According to the expert, Ukrainian Telegram channels prevail everywhere. In the occupied territories alone, half of people's subscriptions are for Russian Telegram channels.

Director of the Department of Information Policy and Information Security of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, Hanna Krasnostup, said that in order to overcome the issues in media regulation in Ukraine, the "Law on Media" was passed, but total media literacy remains an important element.

“Children are the easiest to manipulate. Today, for example, in the Nordic countries, a broad concept of media literacy is considered, such as computer literacy, gaming literacy, etc. Because since 2011, in Europe, the concept of media began to be considered in a broad sense, including computer games. Today, the progress has been achieved such as through computer games you can submit news by cutting on ads. Children are forced to watch such ads, "she said.

According to Krasnostup, the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy is the state body responsible for incorporating critical thinking among the population. In 2021, the Ministry launched theFilternational media literacy project. This platform has become an umbrella for many educational materials from a large number of partners. For the second year in a row, they have been running a national media literacy test. Thus, this year 26,194 participants took part, and 13,980 passed this test completely.

Olha Kruhliy, head of the Svidomi online media communications department, says that the work of their editorial office, which, in fact, began six years ago as an Instagram page, has changed a lot in the context of social networks. Given the consumer behavior, during the full-scale invasion, they turned from 5 main news per day on Instagram into a news agency 24/7, but now they have returned to the "slow media" format.

"These are huge challenges – the need for self-regulation and self-censorship. Here, you need to choose: either you hype, or you adhere to standards; either you chase numbers, or you chase quality. As to media literacy, it certainly begins with the consumer involvement of each and every one of us, and with the people who create information and are responsible for it, "she shared her thoughts.

Co-founder of the media "GRUNT" Anton Maksymenko said that their media grew out of the Telegram channel "Ukraine Opeeatyvno" (Ukraine quick updates). It was created on the day of the full-scale Russian invasion as a response to mass fakes and manipulations that spread in social networks.

“We chose Telegram precisely because of its low entry threshold. In other words, in order to run a Telegram channel, a person does not need to make any investment, no office or even a computer. We did it from our homes, from mobile phones, with zero investment. For the first two months, they worked on a volunteer basis, both day and night. Just because we thought it was the right thing to do and it could be our small contribution to Ukraine's resistance. Therefore, after all, everything depends on the motivation people use to start Telegram as a media, "he said.

He also underscored that the golden age of Telegram is already over. If we compare the rapid consumption of news with fast food, the speaker stressed: "We must remember that there are different types of fast food. There is a street box with shawarma near the train station where you have no idea about the origin of meat they use, about who touched it with their hands. And there is a provisional McDonald's, where all the processes have been elaborated, where the ingredients and caloric content are indicated on the product, where the production processes are totally sterile. Therefore, I urge those who plan to work with Telegram to be more McDonald's than a shwarma place. "

Maksym Dvorovyi, Head of Digital Rights at the Digital Security Laboratory NGO, considers the use of social networks and messengers from the standpoint of legal regulation. According to him, there is no correct single mechanism for Telegram in this context because everything ends up with the fact that the company is hiding behind the jurisdiction of Dubai.

"The Digital Services Act at the level of the European Union establishes a lot of requirements for the transparency of platforms, that they should create complaint mechanisms, that they should explain why content is deleted, give reasons, etc. The act is actually great, except for one thing – it does not offer solutions about what to do with actors who refuse to comply with its provisions themselves and stay somewhere in the UAE. Because the only mechanism suggested there is blocking. Those who watched the story of blocking Telegram and messengers of this kind in other countries of the world, could see that it was never possible. When this somehow succeeds, it usually just leads to the fact that half of the Internet in this country is blocked, "he stressed.

He also said that media consumption will continue to change and we need to accept that legislation and regulation would not be able to keep up with the change. But it is still worth striving for, because no matter how outdated these policies are it will help shape public policy practices and create a media environment that is rules-based and provides access to critical information, and restricts access to illegal content.

This discussion was organized in partnership between Donbas Media Forum and Civil Network OPORA with the support of NDI.

Read also OPORA's case studies: