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

Indrek Treufeldt 1
  • 1 Tallinn University, Estonian Public Broadcasting

Abstract

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.

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