Introduction: Why Do We Need to Talk about Socialism and TV?
The introduction situates the book’s intervention in the global study of television and in the cross-disciplinary study of socialism. It zooms in on three major surprises that such an intervention yields, which are developed across the chapters: (1) Rather than an instrument of brainwashing or propaganda, TV was a highly ambivalent instrument in the hands of party authorities, which undermined as much as it supported the legitimacy of socialist regimes. (2) Studying socialist and postsocialist TV audiences throws into question the near-exclusive attention to (dissident) literature, film, and samizdat journalism that has dominated academic approaches to socialist cultures. Television offers an alternative view, from the vantage point of everyday practices of socialism. These practices were motivated by discourses and desires that muddy the binary opposition between official party-led cultures and dissident intellectual cultures. (3) Rather than existing in ideological isolation, television under socialism participated in and facilitated extensive transnational flows that involved the exchange of technical expertise, genres, and programs, as well as viewer practices and tastes. It is crucial to take into account socialist TV’s contribution to the European and global history of television as well as to the significance of socialism.
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