In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section European Television

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works on European Television History
  • Reference Works on Television Studies in Europe
  • Textbooks and Readers
  • Anthologies and Monographs on Specific European Television Programs, Formats, or Genres
  • Anthologies and Monographs on European Television Regulation and Technology
  • Anthologies and Monographs on European Television Audiences
  • Anthologies and Monographs on European Television and National or Cultural Identity
  • Reference Works on National Television in Europe
  • Audiovisual Sources
  • Journals

Cinema and Media Studies European Television
Andreas Fickers
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 October 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 October 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0057


European television has a double connotation: it characterizes both the history and current existence of multiple television institutions and channels across Europe as well as the phenomenon of transnational, European television. Reaffirming the concept of Europe as “unity in diversity” and acknowledging the contested nature of Europe as a discursive character, both television and Europe can best be defined as projects that need to be continuously renegotiated and reinvented. Both “Europe” and “television” as concepts are constructed entities whose identities vary depending on the topic of inquiry and the roster of questions of those investigating the phenomena. Europe as a discursive construction has been instrumentalized from a multitude of angles (historical, religious, geographical, political, and cultural), and television has been approached as being essentially a technology, an institution, an art, or simply a form of popular entertainment. Historically speaking, the first regular television services started before World War II in Germany (1935) and Great Britain, but the late 1950s and early 1960s marked the real take off of television as a mass medium in most European countries. Transnational television in Europe started with the launch of Eurovision, the organization for the exchange of television programs within the European Broadcasting Union. Until the advent of the so-called dual broadcasting systems in the 1980s, most European countries had public service television institutions, financed by broadcasting fees. The start of commercial television and the advent of satellite broadcasting in the 1980s radically changed the European television landscape. This bibliography aims at offering guidance to the technical, economic, political, and cultural factors that shaped European television since its emergence in the late 1930s. It tries to pay equal attention to both important transnational developments and to specificities of national television cultures.

General Overviews

The political and cultural identity of Europe is a contested discursive and geographical space, which expands and contracts its boundaries and changes over time. The general overviews selected in this paragraph reflect this diversity. While Paulu 1967, Noam 1991, and Bourdon 2011 represent single-authored monographs that have tried to synthesize the history and state of the art of European television at different stages of its development, the edited volumes Coleman and Rollet 1997 and Wieten, et al. 2000 offer a broad range of national case studies, characterizing the different legal, economic, political, and cultural environments in which television as an institution and medium developed. In addition, the multi-volume studies Open Society Institute 2005 and European Audiovisual Observatory 2013 provide the reader with statistical information and concise reviews of the regulatory regimes of television institutions and organizations across Europe. Finally, Bignell and Fickers 2008 tries to present a comparative and transnational perspective on European television history.

  • Bignell, Jonathan, and Andreas Fickers, eds. A European Television History. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008.

    This edited volume reunites some thirty television scholars from all over Europe and presents a first attempt to write a comparative and transnational history of European television. The multi-authored thematic chapters deal with the emergence of television institutions, programs, and audiences and deal with the question of a European identity construction through television.

  • Bourdon, Jérôme. Du service public à la télé-réalité: Une histoire culturelle des télévisions européennes 1950–2010. Bry-sur-Marne: INA Editions, 2011.

    Offers a concise overview of the complex history of European television broadcasts since the 1950s. Instead of a chronological approach, it offers a thematic structure, addressing key issues of European television such as: the problem of language in transnational television, the role of engineers and technology, the importance of information and fiction, and the role of American television as point of reference for European productions.

  • Coleman, James A., and Brigitte Rollet, eds. Television in Europe. Exeter, UK: Intellect Books, 1997.

    The introduction of this collection of well-structured national case studies offers a useful comparative overview of technological, institutional, political, and legal environments of television broadcasting in Europe. The single-authored chapters focus on the development and the state of the art of television broadcasting in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Belgium, Greece, and the Russian Federation in the 1990s.

  • European Audiovisual Observatory, ed. The Yearbook 2013: Television, cinema, video and on-demand audiovisual services in Europe. Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe, 2013.

    Since 1995, the Yearbook of the European Audiovisual Observatory has been providing a synthesis of basic data on the audiovisual scene (film, television, and video) in thirty-nine European countries as well as for Japan and the United States. The yearbook comes in trilingual form, with extensive graphs and a synthesis of recent trends in the audiovisual sector.

  • Noam, Eli M. Television in Europe. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

    Deals with the evolution of powerful monopoly institutions in the communications field (the public broadcasters) and the dramatic changes that took place in the late 1980s throughout Europe with the emergence of the dual system. It provides a comprehensive view of European broadcasting systems, using the perspective of economics and policy analysis.

  • Open Society Institute, ed. Television Across Europe. 4 vols. Budapest: Open Society Institute, 2005.

    This huge survey issued by the EU Monitoring and Advocacy Program of the Open Society Institute in Budapest offers a unique overview on the legal, political, and economic changes that most European broadcasting institutions faced with the emergence of new technologies and increasing commercialization of television in since the 1990s. Twenty European countries are analyzed with a special attention for countries from central and eastern Europe.

  • Paulu, Burton. Radio and Television Broadcasting on the European Continent. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1967.

    One of the first comparative accounts on European broadcasting, dealing with organizational, financial, and program issues of European television in its phase of emergence (1950s) and stabilization (1960s). As an American pioneer in educational radio and television, he got a first-hand impression of European broadcasting while stationed in London and Luxembourg with the United States Office of War Information during World War II.

  • Wieten, Jan, Graham Murdock, and Peter Dahlgren, eds. Television Across Europe: A Comparative Introduction. London: SAGE, 2000.

    Deals with the traditions and transitions of European television broadcasting in terms of institutional patterns (public service broadcasting and commercial services), programming strategies (scheduling and audiences) and television genres and styles (from news to drama and talk shows). Despite its title the book offers mostly national case studies rather than a comparative European approach.

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