Television News in the 1950s: New Medium in the Service of Soviet Power and Society

Indrek Treufeldt 1
  • 1 Tallinn University, Estonian Public Broadcasting


The article discusses the evolution of conventions for TV-journalism based on the early history of Estonian Television (ETV) news. ETV was launched in 1955, its founding was coordinated by the Soviet authorities in Moscow. Although one of the initial motivations for founding the station was to produce ideological programming directed to Finnish audience, the Estonian team within the institution used the new medium to develop a new nationally oriented media organization. Over time this new journalistic institution became increasingly established and standardized both in terms of its practices as well as its use of textual formats. As the authorities lacked a clear understanding of television’s specific journalistic means and affordances the governance of ETV became an object of a rather multilayered control system. The article analyses this complex system of institutional power distribution and discusses its effects on the evolution of “cognitive modalities” expressed in specific programming formats, especially in regard to mechanisms of representing time and space. Also the “interpretative modalities” or the various, often conflicting mechanisms of managing “collectively shared meaning-systems” are discussed. For instance, in response to ritualistic and non-dialogic elements of the program that were conditioned by the soviet ideological apparatus the local journalists also aimed at representing the quotidian experiences of the common men and at establishing relatively free and dialogic relationships with their audiences and with their sense of reality. As a result, the program evolved as a mixture both ideologically and modally different as well as, paradoxically, mutually conditioning elements.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Aleksejev, S.; Kubarkin L.; Losseva, A. 1955. Kuidas toimuvad televisioonisaated. Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus.

  • Brooker, P. 2009. Non-Democratic Regimes. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Bösenberg, J.-A. 2008. Die Aktuelle Kamera. Nachrichten aus einem versunkenen Land. Berlin: Verlag für Berlin-Brandenburg.

  • Bühler, K. 1990. Theory of Language. The Representational Function of Language. Trans. D. F. Goodwin.Amsterdam, Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing.

  • van Dijk, T. 1988. News as Discourse. Hillsdale: Lawrence Elrbaum Associates.

  • Fauconnier, G. 1999. Mappings in Thought and Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Friedrich, C. J.; Brzezinski, Z. K. 1956. Totalitarian Dictatorship and Autocracy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

  • George, G. 1964. ‘On content analysis and critical research in mass communication’. - L. A. Dexter, D. M. White (eds.), People, Society and Mass Communications. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press, 85-108.

  • Gerbner, G. 1973. ‘Cultural indicators: The third voice’. - G. Gerbner, L. P. Gross (eds.), Communication Technology and Social Policy. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

  • Gunter, B. 2000. Media Research Methods: Measuring Audiences, Reactions and Impact. London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi: Sage.

  • Halliday, M. 2004. An Introduction to Functional Grammar. London: Hodder Arnold.

  • Lane, C. 1981. The Rites of Rulers: Ritual in Industrial Society - The Soviet Case. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Lauristin, M.; Vihalemm, P. 2008. ‘Kultuuriajakirjad sotsioloogi pilgiga’. - Keel ja Kirjandus, 1-2, 3-15.

  • Lauristin, M.; Vihalemm, P.; Tallo, I. 1997. ‘Poliitilise kultuuri areng Eestis’. - Sirp, 17 and 24 October.

  • Lõhmus, M. 2002. Transformation of Public Text in Totalitarian System: A Socio-Somiotic Study of Soviet Censorhip Practices in Estonian Radio in the 1980s.Turku: Turun Yliopisto.

  • Markham, J. W. 1964. ‘Is advertising important in the Soviet economy?’ - Journal of Marketing, 28, 2, 31-37.

  • Peep, H. 2009. Eesti Televisioon 1955-1990. (28 September 2013)

  • Roth-Ey, K. J. 2011. Moscow Prime Time: How the Soviet Union Built the Media Empire that Lost the Cultural Cold War. Ithaca, Lonon: Cornell University Press.

  • Sappak, V. 1965. Televisioon ja meie: neli vestlust.Tallinn: Eesti Raamat.

  • Satjukov, P. A. 1960. ‘Nõukogude ajakirjanikud on kommunistliku partei järeleproovitud abilised’. - Nõukogude ajakirjanike esimene üleliiiduline kongress 12.-14. november 1959. Kongressi ettekanded ja otsused. Tallinn: Eesti NSV Ajakirjanike Liit.

  • Treufeldt, I. 2012. Ajakirjanduslik faktiloome erinevates ühiskondlikes tingimustes. Doctoral Dissertation. Tartu University, Faculty of Social Sciences and Education, Institute of Journalism, Communication and Information Studies, Tartu.

  • Tuchman, G. 1980. Making News: A Study in the Construction of Reality. New York: The Free Press.

  • Veskimägi, K.-O. 2005. Kuidas valitseti Eesti NSV-d.Eestimaa Kommunistliku Partei Keskkomitee büroo 162 ülesastumist 1944-1956. Tallinn: K.-O. Veskimägi.

  • Wodak, R.; de Cilia, R.; Reisigl, M.; Liebhart, K. 1999. The Discursive Construction of National Identity.Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

  • Фирсов, Б. М. 1971. Телевидение глазами социолога.Москва: Искусство.

  • Прохоров, Е. П. 1973. Публицист и действительность.Москва: Изд-во Московского университета.


Journal + Issues