Armenia's YouTube political content boom
In recent years, YouTube has become one of the most popular internet platforms in Armenia, and the Armenian-speaking audience is not only a consumer but also a content creator there. Political YouTube channels have a very large audience and both the country’s most prominent news agencies and private channels producing dubious content attract thousands of viewers and subscribers.
What are the largest YouTube channels in Armenia?
There are seven Armenian-language YouTube channels that started operating in 2018-2020 and are now gaining millions of views. Among them are Perfect TV, The Great Armenia, ArmNkr news, New Channel TV, SHD ARM TV, 8rd.am, amenor am.
These channels, as a rule, do not provide accurate information. On the contrary, they spread false and outdated information, constantly using decoy headlines (clickbaits), to try and attract as many views as possible.
The Great Armenia
This channel was created on September 7, 2019, and released its first video on July 19, 2020. Since the creation of the channel, the number of its views has reached 54 million and 103,000 have subscribed to it. There is no information about the founder, activity, or feedback on the page. The only information that can be found in the “About Us” section is a quote of the Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents.
This channel spreads false information in both the headlines and source material, quoting famous people on something that they never said.
Here are some of the typical headlines of The Great Armenia YouTube channel: “Biden’s granddaughter about Armenians: I admire them”; “Listen, you madman – how Soloviev humiliated Aliyev”; “Aliyev, I’ll say it to your face – Malakhov disgraced Aliyev”;” Pugacheva asked Putin to help Armenians”; “URGENT: Turks attacked the house of Kim [Kardashian]”.
The majority of the channel’s content revolves around prominent public figures criticizing Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and praising Armenians. However, in reality, no such statements have ever been made by any of the people that the channel cites, and the channel creators are simply using clickbaits and controversial material to obtain more views.
Hundreds of comments under each of The Great America’s videos show that the channel’s target audience is Armenian-speaking users in Russia and Armenia.
What is common in the content of news channels ArmNkr news, New Channel TV, SHD ARM TV?
The content produced by every single one of these YouTube channels is almost identical: decoy headlines are first followed by a voiceover stating some false information, and then the video changes abruptly to showcase posts, messages, or lives on Facebook.
For example, one of the videos of ArmNkr news claims that when US President Biden utters the phrase “Armenian genocide”, Turkey will be obliged to pay Armenia $ 10 billion in compensations Armenia and the issue of returning Armenian territories will also be discussed.
The New Channel TV video with a caption “URGENT! Nikola is being attacked right now!” consists of random Facebook posts that have nothing to do with the headline of the video. Another New Channel TV video states that the son of US President Biden announced that his future wife is an Armenian woman named Gohar Mazmanyan.
It is noteworthy that the ArmNkr news and New Channel TV videos are voiced by the same female voice. The same voice can be heard on the SHD ARM TV channel of a similarly dubious origin and with identical content posted with slightly amended captions.
Sometimes, the same photos are used for different videos
A link to Nvideo Only1’s Facebook page was posted on the 8rd news channel for feedback. After examining this page, one will have no doubts that all of the YouTube channels mentioned above are operated by the same people.
Nvideo Only1 Facebook page is also sharing the content created by other YouTube channels of similar nature, such as ARM TV, amenor am, ArmTrue and New chennel.
Who is the founder of all these channels?
Research has shown that the aforementioned YouTube channels are owned by a user named Shavarsh Sarukhanyan. Sarukhanyan’s Facebook page states that he is the founder of Nvideo Only1, and in a post on April 21, he states that ArmNkr news is the third most-viewed YouTube channel in Armenia.
Responding to the accusations against him on his Facebook live, Sarukhanyan said that he manages other channels besides 8rd news, adding that his videos are pro-government oriented, but this is exclusively the position of him and his team, adding that they are not working under anyone’s orders.
Perfect TV is the most popular news channel in this category, the audience of which increased significantly after PM Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan shared one of the channel’s videos on his Facebook page on September 1, 2019.
Several media outlets tried to find a connection between the government and Pashinyan in particular, and the Perfect TV channel, claiming that the prime minister could be funding it. In 2019, infocheck.am found out the name of the owner of Perfect TV – Vigen Sukiasyan, whose email address was indicated for Perfect TV’s YouTube feedback.
Infocheck.am contacted Vigen Sukiasyan, who showed his passport, and also provided a financial analysis of the channel, disclosing just how much money he made on YouTube thanks to views and likes on his channel. Sukiasyan did, therefore, prove that he makes money with the help of YouTube mechanisms and is not funded by the state.
Video materials of the YouTube channel, which is hosted by Sukiasyan, have been viewed by about 200 million people, attracted by decoy headlines and disinformation spread by the videos.
Having analyzed the most popular political YouTube channels we have concluded that the channel owners take advantage of the fact that the majority of Armenian-speaking users are interested in politics, but do not have sufficient media literacy to distinguish a reliable source from one spreading false information, therefore allowing such channels to make profit.