Медіатренер, медіаконсультант, кризовий медіаменеджер
Вівторок, 22 Січня 2019

Monitoring methodology for defining propaganda materials in mass media

Monitoring methodology for defining propaganda materials in mass media
Monitoring methodology for defining propaganda materials in mass media

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1. Types of violations of the standards of information journalism, which can serve as signs of propaganda material

1.1. Balance of opinion standard

1.2. Information accuracy standard

1.3. Information reliability standard

1.4. Standard of separating facts from opinions

1.5. Completeness of information standard

1.6. Information comprehensibility standard

1.7. Quick delivery standard

2. Separate features of violations of standards for purposes of propaganda on different platforms in different genres

2.1. TV, radio news, news feeds

2.2. Weekly analytical summaries

2.3. Publicistic copyright programs on TV and radio, articles (in genres of journalistic investigation, special report, essay, etc.)

2.4. Social and political talk shows on TV and radio

2.5. Interviews as an independent genre or as an element in TV / radio program

3. Additional (indirect) signs of propaganda

4. Determination of the connotation of materials with signs of propaganda

5. The main components of systemic propaganda



Propaganda is the dissemination through mass media and in other ways of political views and ideas for manipulating public consciousness and society behavior management in the direction desired by the subject of propaganda (a certain political force, public elite, or authorities as such). A propaganda system creates and maintains a certain (different from the real one) picture of the world for the target audience.

In mass media, propaganda is disguised as an information product (news, political journalism, social and political talk shows, etc.). For this purpose, a propaganda product always has all the outward signs of an information product; it is conveyed to the audience as journalism. Propaganda goals are achieved through the purposeful and conscious breach of information journalism standards. It is a complex of violations of various standards in a certain material that gives grounds for determining it by monitoring as material with signs of propaganda.

In totalitarian countries or countries with authoritarian dictatorship (in particular in Belarus) the state fully or almost fully controls the mass media and all their content is subject to the tasks of propaganda. The bulk of the population takes information from television programs, less of it - from radio programs and online media. The authorities can deliberately leave small “vents” for the dissatisfied (for example Russian publications such as “Echo of Moscow”, “Rain” or “Novaya Gazeta”), which were originally considered and have a small audience. Authorities fight against any other mass media that make a real journalistic information product (as a rule, only on Internet) in all possible ways, including force and criminal.

To simplify, the subject of propaganda will be called the authorities, its opponents - the opposition in the methodology text. Although it should be kept in mind that in real life, a totalitarian or authoritarian dictatorial government often creates an imitative opposition. For example, the Liberal Democratic Party and Communist Party in Russia are called oppositional, but they are always represented in the legislative branch and vote jointly with the party of power - “United Russia”); this moment should be considered in monitoring.

1. Types of violations of the standards of information journalism, which can serve as signs of propaganda material

1.1. Balance of opinion standard

Resume of the standard

Giving a floor to all parties to a conflict underlying the events that became the subject of the material. A clear indication of refusal of individual parties to the conflict to comment. Qualified expert assessment of the arguments of the parties to the conflict.

Types of violations of the standard by propagandists:

  • general lack of balance of opinions. A certain party or parties to a conflict are not given a floor in the material at all, without any explanation to the audience. In systemic propaganda, editors face complete prohibitions on giving a floor to certain opposition politicians. (Example: in Russian propaganda media, the oppositionist Navalny is never given a floor, to the extent of a complete ban on even mentioning his last name);
  • imitation of the balance of opinions by allegedly giving a floor to the opponent. A floor may be given to the representative of the opposition in a material. And in such a way that he makes completely unconvincing arguments (which propagandists choose from what has been said, sometimes completely distorting the meaning of what was said by editing). Sometimes they air something not related to the topic as a “response” to the representative of the authorities from the opposition. With these two methods, propagandists not only imitate the balance of opinions, but create an audience’s impression that the oppositionist “even has nothing to say to the point”. To determine such imitation, it is important to find out which arguments were actually commented by the same oppositionist or his colleagues (relying on high-quality mass media);
  • imitation of the balance of opinions in the form of the “expert assessment”. This method allows you creating the audience’s illusion of “pluralism of opinions”, but the people represented in the material as experts will comment solely in favor of the authorities’ arguments. Such imitation can be achieved by propagandists in three different ways.


These can be real experts who will comment on the topic in favor of the authorities, because they consciously support their course. Or they comment in favor of the authorities under pressure, including intimidated by the security services. Or the authorities have found a way to bribe these real experts. In all these cases, in order to identify the imitation of balance with the help of real experts, their background must be carefully studied: their earlier assessments and в conclusions can obviously discord with what they said in the monitored material.

The second type of the “expert assessment” advantageous to a propagandist is the presentation of political consultants of specific political forces as unbiased “political experts”. This bias is usually traced in the backgrounds of such “political analyst”.

The third way is pseudo-experts serving propagandists. In this case, to determine the imitation of the balance, the background of the “expert” is also important, you need to find out what his experience is, whether this experience can confirm the competence of the assessments of the “expert” in the specific issue he comments. You should also pay attention to the representation of this “expert” in propaganda media "in the long run" because propaganda media, first of all, television, specifically promote a significant number of such “pseudo-experts”. (An example can be the Kiselev’s, Solovyov’s and Norkin’s weeklies on Russian propaganda channels - there the same “experts” wander from program to program). Another sign indicating the doubtful competence of the “expert” will be that he is thematically “omnivorous”: the day before yesterday he commented on the tactics of the military at the front, yesterday - the reasons for the collapse of the exchange rate, and today he comments on the quality of vaccines purchased by the Ministry of Health, etc.

1.2. Information accuracy standard

Resume of the standard

Statement of facts relevant to reality. Accuracy of quoting subjective opinions. Relevance of a picture and comments to it.

Types of violations of the standard by propagandists:

  • fictional facts and events. Propagandists use not only real facts, but also invent facts and events to confirm certain myths of their own. (Example: a story disseminated in July 2014 by the Russian propaganda media, about “the Ukrainian military in Slavyansk having crucified a three-year-old boy before his mother’s eyes”). For monitoring, it is very difficult to quickly identify these fictional facts. They can be testified by the refutations of the parties involved and eyewitnesses (that, of course, will not be on propaganda channels). Such refutations may appear later in true (quality) mass media. Since such “facts” are invented by propagandists “for long-term use”, their mentioning as real events in subsequent materials will already be an unconditional marker of a propaganda product. Sometimes, some contradictions in the very description of the event may attest the untruthfulness of the “fact”. (So, in the story with the “crucified boy”, “an eyewitness to the execution” incorrectly called the toponyms of Slavyansk);
  • distorted facts. A particular case of a previous violation, when propagandists take not a fictional story, but real facts which they slightly distort for embedding in the substantiation of a specific mythologem. Such distortion of the facts is easily detected when compared with how this fact is covered by quality mass media;
  • fictional opinions. Propagandists ascribe words to a particular person, which he did not say, taking advantage of the fact that he can not publicly refute it. It may also be an interpretation of what was said by a person with the partial or complete distortion of the meaning. (Example: in September 2018, Russian propaganda media and a number of pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine disseminated a mythologem about "the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament Parubiy calling Hitler the greatest democrat." In fact, Parubiy gave the example of Hitler as the greatest manipulator who used democracy to come to the individual rule in Germany.) Another way to manipulate a person’s opinion is to quote his words taken out of context (he spoke about certain circumstances, and propagandists attributed his words to other circumstances). To identify this violation, it is enough to compare the quotes that are given in the analyzed material with the full quotes in real mass media;
  • using the other picture. Propagandists can illustrate a particular mythologem with a picture having no relation to the present circumstances. (Example: in 2014, large Russian propaganda media repeatedly illustrated reports about the war in the Ukrainian Donbas with pictures taken earlier in Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones.) Such violation can most often be determined by searching for this picture in Google;
  • using staged pictures. To depict crowded protests or, on the contrary, government support actions, it is enough for propagandists to use a dozen people in a crowd scene. The true number of participants in the action can be clearly seen in the pictures taken by real mass media;
  • using the dubious sociology. “Sociological survey data” for a wide variety of reasons is a very common way of confirming various propaganda mythologems. The sociology needed by propagandists may have a different origin:

- pseudo-sociological services. Similar to pseudo-experts, the propaganda machine creates "sociological services" with pretentious names. These services "draw" the polls necessary for propagandists. (Example: for the years of independence, in Ukraine, there has been created about seventy such pseudo-sociological services with relevant names: “All-Ukrainian Sociological Service”, “Freedom and Democracy Foundation”, “All-Ukrainian Institute of Sociology”, “Institute of Global Strategies”, etc.) To identify the fake nature of such firms, it is necessary to find out their background: whether they are real sociological services earning money in the business market; whether they are members of world sociological associations; when they were created; what other polls they conducted; who their founders and owners are;

- true sociological services, which give the result necessary to propagandists with the help of bribing or blackmail. (Example: during the second round of the 2004 presidential election, two real experienced and reputed Ukrainian sociological services falsified the exit poll results in favor of the candidate Yanukovych.) The first case of fake results of the poll is difficult to identify unless their colleagues stated about it on the same day. But if the sociological service was at least once involved in the falsification of social research - it means that their subsequent studies of public opinion related to politics can not be trusted. Hence, quoting their social research in the material may indicate signs of propaganda.

With regard to electoral sociology, one must also bear in mind such moment. In totalitarian and dictatorial states, even fully correctly conducted sociological studies give a significantly distorted result, because people polled by sociologists are most often afraid to openly express their true opinions and preferences that are contrary to the "official course". Hence this unrealistic (from the point of view of sociology as a science), almost 100% support of the dictator and the wars he unleashed (as it happens in Russia in VCIOM or Levada-Center polls).

When sociological data appear in the analyzed material, you should also pay attention to whether the research client is indicated (one thing - if this is the party of power, another thing is an opposition party, and the third thing is a public organization, etc.). Propagandists can also manipulate sociological data, replacing the wording of the question. (A common example in the Ukrainian practice: the customer of the survey gives the sociologists the question "who, in your opinion, will become the next president of the country?", and the results of this opinion poll are presented as answers to the classic electoral question “who would you vote for if the elections to be held next Sunday?”. With such a manipulation, a candidate from the government or a well-promoted oppositional populist “gain” much more electoral votes, because, answering the first question, even those who are going to vote for the opposition candidate believe that the pro-government will win due to fraud during the election, and the populist - due to promotion. To identify this manipulation, it is necessary to find out the exact wording of the question that was posed during the study. For this, you need to compare the data in a material with the official research report that the sociological service publishes on its page, and confirm them by a telephone call to sociologists.

1.3. Information reliability standard

Resume of the standard

Every fact in a journalistic material must be verified in the competent sources. The source of each fact must be clearly indicated. The authors of each subjective opinion presented in the material must also be clearly named.

Types of violations of the standard by propagandists:

(Note: in the post-Soviet countries, modern journalism has inherited a rather loose attitude to professional standards from the Soviet journalism. In particular, the lack of full references to sources of information, approximation, vagueness of these references, desire for unreasonable generalizations, etc. Therefore, the following violations of the standard of reliability themselves are also found in those materials that have nothing to do with propaganda. The presence in the material of these violations can be regarded as a sign of propaganda only in conjunction with violations of the standards of accuracy, balance of opinions and standard of separation of facts from opinions, which will be discussed below.)

  • references to sources on the Internet (it does not matter, whether to the pages in social networks, Internet media or to the official pages of organizations, institutions and the mass media). Such references in the quality journalism is, in principle, unreliable, because the Internet is too dynamic and vulnerable. In any segment of the Internet, there is a high probability of inaccurate information due to technical failures and human errors, as well as targeted hacker attacks. The latter circumstance is magnified a great deal by the hybrid war of Russia it is waging all over the world, and the information component of this war is essential. (Example: on 26 May 2014, the day after the vote in the special election of the President of Ukraine, the Russian propaganda channel ORT showed on the air a fake screenshot of the Ukrainian CEC’s web page with the vote count, where the ultra-radical candidate Yarosh from the Right Sector was in the lead. In fact, the Security Service of Ukraine was able to prevent a Russian hacker attack on the CEC’s website, and ORT propagandists apparently did not receive commands from the FSB to cancel the publication and broadcast it);
  • Internet as a technology of stuffing information. For stuffing fake facts and opinions, the propaganda machine uses such technique: they create one-time or long-running pseudo-Internet media, whose propaganda “publications” disperse in the real Internet media having not too high requirements for the verification of information. From there, these fictional facts fall into the propaganda media already with references to more “authoritative” sources. (Sometimes propagandists do not even wait for the repost. For example, in June 2016, a series of publications were published in the Russian propaganda media: “The Ukrainian doctor proudly told how he dealt with the militia on the surgical table.” With that, the references said: “On the air of Ukrainian television.” In fact, the “air of Ukrainian television” was a one-day website ukrlife.tv, where there was only one video loop with a “doctor”, with a caption “live broadcast”.);
  • reference to vague sources of factual information. In quality journalism, a journalist receives information from a particular person and, according to the standard, submitting these facts, should refer to this particular person with a brief explanation of his competence. References of this kind - “our sources in the State Duma”, “they say in the government”, “the police report”, etc. are incorrect and untruthful (which at the same time violates the information accuracy standard because what was said by a certain person is denoted by a plural number for some reason, which is not true);
  • reference to completely anonymous sources. On Russian propaganda channels, such pseudo-references as “some sources report”, “as various sources report”, “media reported”, “according to sources familiar with the situation in the Verkhovna Rada”, etc. are popular. It is clear that in all these cases, it is impossible to identify the source of information. Most often, such a source does not exist at all, and the facts are fictionalized by the propagandists themselves;
  • generalized reference to indefinable groups of people. These are pseudo-references of such type: “people speak”, “many are sure”, “it is well-known”, “it is not a secret for anyone that”, etc. Most often they indicate that propagandists have no real source of information;
  • submission of subjective opinion with a generalized reference to its authorship. This is even more flagrant violation than the presentation of facts without reference to the source. Subjective opinion is inseparable from the subject who expresses it. References that imitate the 'authority' of the opinion source are as follows: "experts say", "observers say", "experts believe", and so on. In most cases, the opinion of the propagandists themselves is expressed;
  • complete generalization of a certain subjective opinion to large groups of people. Often used propaganda technique to impose on the audience the idea of the "correctness" of a certain message. This technique was very actively used by Soviet propaganda (“the entire Soviet people in a single rush strongly support the peace-loving course of the Communist Party and the Soviet government and angrily condemns the evil intrigues of imperialism”). Pseudo-references of the following type are completely incorrect and untrue: “the majority of people in our country support something”, “many citizens are concerned about something”, etc. It is clear that this kind of references that are not based on reliable data of a real sociology simultaneously violate the accuracy standard (because it is not known whether the majority actually supports something, or a minority) and the standard of balance of opinions (because in these cases the audience does not hear the opinion of those who do not support this something);
  • submission of facts without any reference to their source. That may indicate these facts are fabricated by propagandists.


1.4. Standard of separating facts from opinions

Resume of the standard

The journalistic material should clearly point out where the facts are set out, and where the subjective opinions of people are. Each opinion in the material should be separated from other opinions and facts. A journalist should not give his own opinions (assessments, conclusions, generalizations) in the news. In journalism, the journalist should clearly mark his own opinions precisely as his own opinions.

Types of violations of the standard:

  • subjective judgments of the journalist or the heroes of his material, which are presented as a fact. Most often these are accusations of someone for something that is not proven in any way (“he is corrupt”, “she stole the budget funds”, etc.);
  • subjective judgments not supported by facts. When a propagandist draws certain conclusions without citing facts that could lie at their core;
  • subjective judgments based on false facts. This violation is evaluated by monitoring in conjunction with a recorded violation of the accuracy standard;
  • subjective judgments based on a tendentious (incomplete) collection of facts. Selective presentation of facts, convenient for the “conclusion” of the propagandist, and ignoring the facts that contradict this “conclusion” are at the same time a violation of the completeness of information standard (described below);
  • subjective assessments that give a propagandist an emotional tint to individual facts, ideas, persons or groups (for example, “heroic rebels” and “cowardly junta” in the Russian propaganda). That is, the use of epithets that have a clear positive or negative connotation;
  • evaluative vocabulary, playing the role of a kind of terminology, labels. It is a clear marker of “bad” and “good” in propaganda materials. In the current Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine, propaganda media clearly mark the concepts ("Jewish Banderists", "Ukrainian fascists", "death-squads" - on the one hand, "militia", "rebels", "residents of young republics" - on the other). The last two violations work together and provide for monitoring clear grounds for determining in whose favor or, on the contrary, against whom specific propaganda material is designed;
  • subjective assessments that substitute facts (“the authorities have done a lot” instead of “so-and-so much”);
  • evaluative audio noise. This may be mocking music put under the video image of those who are the target of a propagandist. It is used more often in propaganda materials imitating journalism, as well as in propaganda talk shows. In talk shows, a specially organized disapproving rumble of the audience is practiced too when the hero says “wrong” things. And vice versa - applause, when the host or the heroes of a talk show say the "right" things.


Layout. The creation of a positive or negative background can be played by messages artificially brought together in the layout of the issue or next to a page on the Internet, which can cause evaluative associations.

1.5. Completeness of information standard

Resume of the standard

All basic facts and opinions on the topic of the material should be presented. All backgrounds must also be presented, without which the topic will be incomprehensible to the new viewer / listener / reader. Violation of the balance of opinion standards, lack of indication of sources of information when presenting facts, especially not specifying the authors of certain opinions voiced in the material, as well as replacing facts with journalist's evaluations (for example, an ungrounded generalization) are also a violation of this standard.

Types of violations of the standard:

  • selective presentation of facts on the topic of publication. In propaganda materials, facts on the topic are usually incomplete. A propagandist selects from the real facts only those facts that confirm the picture drawn by propaganda. It is possible to find out what facts, without which the real picture of events is distorted, the propagandist kept silent by comparing with a set of facts presented on the same topic by quality mass media;
  • lack of backgrounds important for the understanding of the topic. The most frequent violation is the lack of backgrounds on what was done or stated earlier by the heroes of materials (politicians, businessmen and others) on the topic of today. Such backgrounds are very often completely discordant with their current statements. The audience for the most part has a “short memory” and reminding it of what the characters quoted or mentioned in the material would like to forget is one of the important tasks of the quality journalism. In propaganda, any backgrounds that are negative for the “customer” are never mentioned;
  • incomplete presentation of the data of sociological studies. When a propagandist selects only advantageous theses from real sociological research, keeping silent about other significant results. For example, in electoral studies, propagandists can only talk about the growth of the rating of a pro-governmental or oppositional candidate, or a candidate close to the owner of the media resource, keeping silent that the opponent has a much higher rating. Distorting the true picture can also be concealed by the statistical error declared by sociologists, which, for example, can cast doubt on the unconditional leadership of a candidate to whom a particular media is loyal.


1.6. Information comprehensibility standard

Resume of the standard

Information is presented in a simple and plain language. All complex concepts are explained by backgrounds or expert explanations. The picture (video, photo) must be understandable or explained by the commentary behind the scenes (on TV, on the Internet) or by the outline (on the Internet).

Types of violations of the standard:

  • using propaganda clichés . The propaganda language always uses a large number of long-standing clichés, reiteration of which works with the consciousness of the audience at the level of neuro-linguistic programming, constantly “confirming” some “correctness” of propaganda messages, adding to it “credibility” for an uncritical viewer / listener / reader. (Examples from the current Russian propaganda: “rising from its knees”, “spiritual bonds”, “values of the Russian world”, etc.);
  • intentional complication to give additional credibility. In such way, propaganda can explain the "correctness" of certain opinions or actions of the authorities. The main mechanism of action of this violation is to impose some conditional thought on the audience: “see how difficult everything is, you don’t understand this completely, but the president and the government, unlike you, know what they are doing.” (A vivid example of this is mass propaganda substantiation of the current retirement age in Russia.) 


1.7. Quick delivery standard

Resume of the standard

The maximum reduction in time between an event and the publication of it.

Types of violations of the standard:

  • complete ignoring facts and opinions inconvenient for propagandists. The quick delivery standard is violated for propaganda purposes more often by completely ignoring the “disadvantageous” information rather than by presenting it with a special delay. The editors of the propaganda media always have a written or implicit ban on mentioning a certain type of events, on quoting the opinions of certain personalities. That is, certain events and persons are not present in the information picture of each day, drawn by the propaganda media. In most cases, self-censorship of editorial staff is sufficient. For individual events that are beyond the scope of this list of implicit bans, propaganda centers send special guidelines to the editorial offices with prohibitions on their coverage. Therefore, fixing the ignoring of socially significant events and statements of each day may be a separate section of monitoring, which will determine the range of ignored topics and personalities.


2. Separate particularities of violations of standards for propaganda purposes on different platforms and in different genres 

In general, standards are universal for journalism on any platform (television, radio, print press or the Internet) and in any informational genres. However, in different genres and on different platforms, there may be some particularities of their violation for propaganda purposes.

2.1. TV, radio news, news feeds

News is the most conservative genre of journalism, where only strict compliance with standards allows giving the audience a real informational picture. Therefore, in the news (regardless of the platform on which they are presented), violations of the standards are most obvious and the main task of monitoring is only to determine the intentional nature of these violations for achieving propaganda goals. In the previous section, there are described only those types of violations of each standard that can be tools of propagandists mainly in the news.

2.2. Weekly analytical summaries

Unlike news, final analytical weeklies are most often presented as authorial programs, where the host is the author. In this regard, according to the standard of separation of facts from opinions, the hosting author has the right to express his own subjective opinions, but it is important to adhere to the following rules:

1) any subjective opinion of the author of the program should be based on a reliable array of reliable facts. There should be no hushing up of known facts that do not confirm or refute the opinion of the host (such hushing-up may indicate signs of a propaganda material);

2) the general balance of opinions should be maintained, including the voicing of those who may not confirm or refute the opinion of the author. Hushing up them may indicate the propaganda nature of the program;

3) a subjective opinion of the author-journalist should be clearly and unambiguously separated from both the facts and the opinions of other people, that is, the boundaries (beginning and end) of each author’s subjective opinion should be obvious to the audience of the program. Non-specificity, vagueness, non-obviousness of these boundaries may be indicative of a propaganda component;

4) each subjective opinion of the author of the program should be clearly marked precisely as his subjective opinion (by referring to himself: “in my opinion”, “I consider”, “it seems to me”, etc.). Let us assume the option when a certain subjective opinion is presented in the weekly as the position of the entire editorial board of the program with obligatory marking (“our editorial board considers”).

All other standards in this genre of programs have no peculiarities; violations are defined in the same way as described in the first section of this methodology.

2.3. Publicistic authorial programs on TV and radio, articles (in the genres of investigative journalism, special reporting, essay, etc.) 

Usually, such programs or articles are prepared longer than daily news, so their authors have enough time for a quality check of the facts and the search for comprehensive backgrounds. Therefore, in such programs, the inaccuracy of references to sources of factual information cannot be justified by considerations of speed and time constraints. The same regards the lack of backgrounds. In other words, violations of the standards of credibility and completeness of information in such programs may indicate intentionality for propaganda purposes.     

The remaining positions correspond to those described in the first section of the methodology.

2.4. Social and political talk shows on TV and radio

The standard of balance of opinions in talk shows is provided by the presence in the studio of representatives of all the main parties to the conflict under discussion. In the event of a refusal by any party to participate in this talk show, the presenter must correctly say this at the time of the presentation of the studio guests and recall this at the end of the program. If the talk show is live, at the beginning of the program, the moderator may also suggest the “rejectors” to join the discussion during the program (in person, by phone or by video broadcast). If there are no representatives of any party to the conflict in the studio and the moderator says nothing about this, this may indicate the propaganda nature of the program.

One of the propaganda ways to imitate the balance of opinions on a talk show is to invite an ordinary representative of a political force to the studio, who has an opinion different from that of most of his associates, while consonant with the propaganda picture (most often this person is influenced, bribed or blackmailed). Therefore, when monitoring a talk show, one should pay attention to the “rank” and recognizability of representatives of political forces who are guests of the program (these are “first persons”, permanent speakers or little-known people who are formally members of this political force). 

The main opposition speakers can be invited to talk shows, but the presenter and other guests of the talk shows and controlled audiences can then interrupt and suppress them with noise (a prime example is the main weekly talk shows on Russian propaganda channels, where even physical force is used against opposition speakers sometimes).

You can also assess the balance of opinions on talk shows in the long run, when it becomes clear that some newsmakers appear too often, while others rarely or never at all.

A violation of the standard of separating facts from opinions in a talk show is the use by a host of evaluative vocabulary, which makes his questions or appeals to different guests either positive and “complimentary”, or negative and disparaging to different participants. It programs an appropriate positive or negative attitude towards participants, the forces they represent, and everything they say during the program.

The talk show host can indicate his positive or negative attitude towards different participants, including non-verbally (facial expressions, gestures).

With regard to the standards of accuracy and reliability, on a talk show, the host should question or refute the false facts that program participants may bring. In the same way, he should demand from the guests of the studio to indicate clear sources of information about the key facts that they are voicing, and to clearly authorize the opinions of others that are voiced by them. If the moderator does not do this, this may be a sign of a propaganda product.

The same regards the standard of completeness of information. The host should ensure that there are all the necessary backgrounds to what the guests of the studio said, and either voice them by himself, or ask the guests to voice the background to their own words. If the moderator does not do this, it can also be a sign of a propaganda product.

2.5. Interviews as an independent genre or as an element in a television / radio program

(Note: in this section, we are talking about the host’s interview with one guest of the studio; when there are two or more guests in the studio - see section 2.4).

The implementation of the balance of opinion standard in this genre depends on the method of preparing the interview (recording followed by editing or live broadcast) and the program format set by the editor (a separate program or a guest studio in a large program), the program’s cyclical nature and program themes. Depending on all this, high-quality journalism uses the following methods to achieve the balance of opinions:

1) the interviewer may voice (with a quote or a video or audio sync prepared in advance) the earlier publicly expressed opinions of the opponent of the guest of the studio;

2) if an interview is recorded and the program format provides such an opportunity, the interview is supplemented with comments of the opponents of a hero;

3) if an interview is held live and the format of the program provides for such an opportunity, the broadcasting group operatively contacts the hero's opponent by telephone or video broadcast and takes him to the studio to answer the studio guest;

4) If all of the above is not possible (for technical reasons or if these items are not provided by the program format), during the interview or at its end, the host must clearly voice the intention of the editorial board to get the comments of the opponents to a studio guest and give them to the air later (in the following guest studios or next broadcast of the program). Or the intention to invite the opponents of the hero of the current broadcast to the next broadcast of the program.

Defining the positions of opponents of the guest of the program by any of all these methods is mandatory in cases where the guest of a program:

- comments on a controversial or disputed issue;

- criticizes his opponents for certain actions or omissions;

- blames his opponents for anything;

- insults their opponents.

Regarding the standards of separation of facts from opinions, accuracy, reliability and completeness, there are the same notes as in the section on talk shows. 


3. Additional (indirect) signs of propaganda

The nature of the violation of the standards of information journalism in a separate publication is not always obvious evidence of his ordered character; it may have the appearance of a simple human error of the author of the material or his professional incompetence. To confirm that these violations are of a systemic rather than random nature, and may indicate the propaganda nature of the material, it is necessary to supplement the list of complex violations of standards with other, indirect signs of propaganda. These are answers to such questions:

  • Is the topic of material socially significant at the time of its publication?

The social significance of the topic is determined by such positions: the topic directly or indirectly concerns the interests of large social groups. Publication on a topic can have a purely pragmatic value for these groups of people to make everyday decisions (any questions related to income, savings and daily expenses of families, personal safety of people, housing and public services, health, social security, education, rest, etc.). This information may have electoral value (informing about the real actions of various political forces or their individual representatives in government positions, their income and property, behavior, statements, etc.) for the audience to make a conscious decision at polling stations.

  • Who owns the media?

The owner (for example, the authorities, if the media is state-owned, or an oligarch, both loyal to the government, and, at some critical moments in society, having turned into the opposition to power) most often has full influence on the editorial policy and uses it to his advantage and in the interests of his allies.

  • Is this format of presentation of materials peculiar to this mass media?

If there is systemic propaganda, then it uses standard forms and they will definitely be repeated many times.

  • Is the coverage of this particular politician or political force, a businessman, a commercial firm, representatives of civil society in such a format a tendency for this media? And vice versa, isn't this a tendency that this media hushes up certain types of facts or does not present the opinions of specific politicians, businessmen, representatives of civil society?

Constant coverage of some people and ignoring others indicates the existence of a written or unwritten editorial rule.

  • Is there a tendency in this mass media to distort information in the same way as in this material?

That is, are the combination and nature of the violation of standards in this mass media systematic?

  • Are there any materials with the same or very similar violations of standards in other mass media especially those belonging to the same owner? 

Different editorial boards very often work according to the same propaganda training manuals, which leads to multiple repetitions of the same violations in a completely identical way, often with the same wording. This can be quite a clear indication of the "order" from a single center.

  • If there is a complex of several violations of the standards described above in the analyzed material and there are indirect signs of a propaganda material, it is determined by monitoring as material with propaganda signs.   


4. Definition of the connotation of materials with propaganda signs

The next monitoring step is to determine whether this material is positive or negative for whom or what. It can be: 

  • authorities in general,
  • the opposition in general,
  • individual authorities of different levels,
  • a particular politician or official,
  • political force (party, movement),
  • public organization or a specific member of the public,
  • non-governmental institution, company, etc.,
  • specific businessman,
  • a certain action (for example, the economic blockade of the occupied Crimea by the Crimean Tatars since 2015 ), the idea (for example, Ukraine’s entry into NATO), the intention (for example, to raise gas tariffs for the population) or a plan.


To determine the connotation (positive / negative) and the object to which this connotation is applied in the material, monitoring assesses the nature and methods of violations of the standards in the material. The clearest markers of connotation are such violations:

  • standard of balance of opinions: giving the floor only to the parties to the conflict that argue for their vision of the topic (positive connotation) and criticize or accuse the party that is not given the floor or it is pretended (negative connotation);
  • standard of separation of facts from opinions: the use of evaluative epithets, verbs and label definitions, each of which has a clearly defined positive or negative connotation;
  • information accuracy standard: fixation in the material of fictional or distorted facts that work in support of a certain message and are beneficial for a certain side of the conflict (positive connotation) and / or disadvantageous for the other side of the conflict (negative connotation). The same regards the fictional or distorted quotations of subjective opinions;
  • standard of information reliability: determination of positive or negative attitude to someone or something of the mythical “majority of people” with generalization references; 
  • completeness of information standard: fixation of the hushing up in the material of facts and backgrounds that are disadvantageous to the subject of propaganda (positive connotation);
  • information comprehensibility standard: the presence in the material of well-established ideological clichés, in each of which a positive or negative connotation was initially “sewn in”.


5. The main components of systemic propaganda

Propaganda (especially state propaganda in totalitarian or authoritarian dictatorial countries) is very rarely targeted, more often it is a large systemic phenomenon, when all propaganda materials without exception are embedded in a single, integral, internally consistent (for non-critical perception) and at the same time simple enough for the understanding of the average person "picture of the world", advantageous to the subject of propaganda. In order to make it easier to see in monitoring what fragments of this propaganda “picture of the world” are supplemented by a certain material, you need to know from which parts (or directions) the propaganda system is made.

A clear division into "friends" and "enemies", "friends" and "aliens", "right" and "wrong". Respectively, propagandists assign a unique label-definition to everybody and everything, which must immediately give the audience the "correct understanding" of what is at stake - the "good" or "bad". Thus, according to the current Russian propaganda, “junta” and “fascist regime” rule in Kiev , there are “militiamen” and “rebels” in eastern Ukraine (for comparison: in a mirror situation - very similar to the actual Russian history of separatism in Chechnya – there were “Chechen terrorists" and "militants" on the contrary).

Dehumanization of "enemies". On the one hand, propaganda paints “enemies” with blackest colors (“The West is rotting”, “Europe is Sodom and Gomorrah”, “the bloodthirsty Ukrainians ruthlessly destroy the civilian population of Donbass”, etc.). On the other hand, in many ways they emphasize the worthlessness of entire nations ("Khokhly", "Bulbashi", "Churki", "Geyropeytsy", "Pindosy", etc.).

The rationale for the "correctness" of everything that "friends" do. Any action of the authorities, any word of a pro-government politician are presented as something correct and significant: “the government cannot be mistaken”, “the government knows what they are doing”.

Conspiracy theory. “Enemies” are busy only with inventing different ways how to do something bad to our country, our government, our people, etc. (“Russia is a besieged fortress”, “the United States conducts Russophobia around the world”, etc.).

The substitution of concepts, when the meaning of a word is completely distorted or definitions are used for other purposes. For example, the Russian propaganda media called the militants in the Donbas "militias". The meaning of the word “militiamen” is civilians who help their army defend the country from an external enemy. Donbass militants of Ukrainian origin, on the contrary, help the army of the external occupier to fight against the army of their country. Another example: from Soviet times in Russia, the word “fascism” means German Nazism or, in a broader sense, any far-right political movements and ideologies based on extreme nationalism, chauvinism, xenophobia and leaderism, although in fact “fascism” is purely self-determination of Italian Nazism - the doctrine and state dictatorship of Mussolini.

Separation of concepts. So, Russian propaganda and its “fifth column” in Ukraine, promoting the thesis of a “compromise world” (on the condition of complete surrender of Ukraine), actively, in various forms and forms, replicate the thesis that “Ukrainian politicians caused a quarrel between us, and ordinary Russians love Ukrainians".

Rewriting history and other sciences. The most vivid example can be the myth that “Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians are one people” promoted by Russian politicians and Russian propaganda. Or the rationale that the “Crimea is originally Russian” is the myth of “Chersonese as Russian Korsun”.

Generalization. A separate event is presented as a tendency with subsequent “conclusions” (“all Ukrainians are like these”, “all Georgians are like these”, “all Belarusians are like these”, etc.).

Propaganda clichés are stereotyped expressions that briefly, in a slogan form, give an unambiguous assessment to political subjects, social and political phenomena, etc., and / or are a call for certain actions that are advantageous for the propagandist. (Examples: “no one is forgotten, nothing is forgotten”, “we can repeat”, “Crimea is ours,” etc.)

Simulated pluralism of opinions with the help of quasi-opposition (a good example is the Russian “oppositional” Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia imitate the “struggle with the authorities”, while at the fake elections they always get their factions in the State Duma. Such “opposition” opposes the authorities with safe arguments for the latter).

Multiple repetition of the message or its repetition with minor variations. (Example: a referendum in Russia in April 1993; propaganda replicated and repeatedly repeated in different media a simple message “yes, yes, no, yes”, in order to achieve the desired for the government result of the national vote on four deliberately complicated issues.)

Plurality of versions. In order to dilute the true circumstances of a certain incident and to divert attention from the real version, the propaganda machine launches various pseudo-versions of the event. (Example: Russian official bodies, and after them, the propaganda media, voiced various versions of the MH17 crash - “it was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter”, “it was shot down by a Ukrainian “Buk”, etc.)

These are the main ways of the propaganda system work. Their presence in the analyzed material together with the violations of the standards of journalism described above testify to the propaganda nature of this material.

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2016 — 2019 Dev.
Andrey U. Chulkov