Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 222222
Loughborough University

Screening Socialism

Television Cultures

Over the course of the 1950s and 1960s, a new technology emerged in state socialist countries which slowly began to dominate leisure time: television. Television, like radio before it, changed the way politics and culture were produced and consumed. Today it’s difficult to see why, but think of it like this: television was important because it changed the context and the form in which official messages were seen. Cinema, theatre, lectures: all of these took place outside the home. You were on show when you sat in the audience, and so you needed to behave. Broadcasting changed all that. You could watch a documentary on Lenin in the privacy of your home, while chatting with friends and family, and nobody would stop you. You could mock or challenge the words of the newsreader and nothing would happen to you. And, of course, you could turn the set off in mid-sentence. And there was nothing wrong with that. Because of the viewer’s freedom to choose – if not the content then certainly the context in which TV’s messages were viewed – socialist culture and politics had to adapt.

These web pages briefly elucidate some of the changes brought by television, and outline some of the important aspects of television programming and everyday life during state socialism. The focus is not so much on obviously ideological information and educational programmes like the Soviet Leninist University of Millions (Leninskii universitet millionov, 1974-1985), or East Germany’s infamous propaganda round-up The Black Channel (Der schwarze Kanal, 1960-1989), but primarily on entertainment-based programmes and the role of TV in everyday life.

To learn more about these issues please consult the publications arising from the Screening Socialism project.


Modernity Domesticity Family Holidays History


PHOTO: Entertainment formed an important, but often neglected aspect of state socialist television programming. Scene from the East German TV show A Kettle of Fun (Ein Kessel Buntes, 1983). Source: Deutsches Rundfunk Archiv – German Broadcasting Archive, 1570288.


Contact us

  • +44 (0)1509 223363
  • Screening Socialism
    Brockington Building
    Loughborough University
    LE11 3TU