Cinema and Media Studies Eastern European Television
by
Anikó Imre
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 March 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0331

Introduction

The field of television studies has given us a rich tapestry of the history and theory of the dominant commercial model that developed in the United States, and of the public broadcasting model that defined Western European television systems, through the 1980s. However, substantial work on the histories of Eastern European and (post)Soviet broadcasting has only appeared in English in the new millennium. To some extent, this absence of work on (post)socialist television has been due to a shortage of information about socialist cultures. Other reasons include television studies’ own identification of American TV as the normative path of the medium’s development, supported by a Cold War ideological filter toward (post)socialist cultures, which equated socialist TV with propaganda, as well as television’s status in Eastern Europe as a “lowly” popular medium not worthy of serious study. Recent publications have finally challenged the lingering stereotypes about socialist systems and introduced a different model of television into the study of the media. They have shown that, while socialist television systems varied significantly in terms of language, cultural tradition, political attitudes, and economic development, Eastern European and Soviet TV welcomed a range of innovative aesthetic practices and involved hybrid economic models. It fostered frequent exchanges and collaborations within the region and with Western media institutions, a programming flow across borders, a steady production of genre entertainment, in some cases significant reliance on commercial revenue, and transcultural reception practices along the shared broadcast signals of national borders. Rather than homogeneity and brainwashing, the history of Eastern European television shows affinity and collaboration with Western European public broadcasters; socialist party leaderships’ more or less haphazard attempts at control, which was constantly tempered by the demands of viewers to be entertained; the crucial role of competition as a driving force;, and experiments with various forms and genres in an effort to convey authenticity and persuasion. With transnational conglomerates’ rapid takeover of postsocialist media markets in the 1990s, and the accession of most former socialist states into the European Union in the mid-2000s, the story of Eastern European television has officially become a part of that of European TV and, more broadly, of the globalization of the media industries. What still justifies a regional approach are simultaneous political-economic developments that have once again shaped the region’s media in similar ways: after a short period of hard-fought reforms over media ownership and regulation in the 1990s, Europe’s financial crises in the late 2000s gravely affected postsocialist media economies and prepared television for a new type of re-centralization under the control of illiberal national oligarchies in coexistence with global neoliberal competition and consumer access to media content from around the world.

Journals

There are no journals specifically dedicated to Eastern European television. Rather, articles related to TV are dispersed among a number of trade, popular, and academic venues whose profiles cover film, popular culture, media industries, histories and theories, celebrity cultures, and other areas of interest. Of the two journals that regularly publish work on Eastern European TV, VIEW covers European television history in a geographically integrative way, while NECSUS includes television in a broader purview of European film and media cultures.

  • NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies.

    E-mail Citation »

    NECSUS is an international, open access online journal of media studies connected to NECS (European Network for Cinema and Media Studies) and published by Amsterdam University Press. The journal is multidisciplinary and strives to bring together work in the field of media studies across the humanities and social sciences. The journal particularly welcomes comparative and pan-European studies. It is published biannually and targeted to researchers, lecturers, and students.

  • VIEW: Journal of European Television History and Culture.

    E-mail Citation »

    VIEW is the only journal that has consistently considered Eastern European television to be part of the history of the entire continent, rather than collapsing Europe into Western Europe. It has published work by a large number of scholars from Eastern Europe and has hosted several special issues related to television in the region.

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