14 June 2001

Early on in broadcasting, before television and even before a practical means to achieve it was available, the idea of sharing programmes between countries was considered an important one.

The improvement in international relations that would come about from showing the populace of one country how different – and how similar – a neighbouring state’s citizenry was had become something of a talisman for those who had lived through the Great War. That the programmes resulting were cheap – free, often – for the receiving broadcaster was a secondary consideration after the lofty ideal of world peace.

Whilst a subsequent conflict – far larger whilst also managing to kill fewer soldiers but more civilians – proved that sharing radio programmes alone would not be enough to bring about the peace so longed for, the notion of sharing programming did not die.

With the coming of popular mass television in the late 1950s, the western European countries, under the aegis of the EBU, had banded together to exchange programmes under the name ‘Eurovision’.

Public service networks like the UK’s Rediffusion and America’s PBS-forerunner NET had chosen the name ‘Intertel’.

And the eastern European nations, under the firm guiding hand of OIRT, chose the brand name ‘Intervision’. A typical display of ‘anything you can do’, much seen at the time between west and east, but also a fully-functional technical system for the exchange of programmes, and with similar ideals to those of the pioneers.

Just like Eurovision, Intervision hoped that promoting the differences and similarities in each Communist country would help international relations. It may also have helped distract the viewer from longing for other cultures not so readily approved by the Politburo, on the other side of the Curtain.

One of the features of Communism’s ideology – usually – was the concept of worldwide revolution. As Communism was the most perfect – allegedly – system, so all countries would one day fall to it. And, just as the state under Communism would wither, so would nation states.

Therefore, Intervision can actually be seen on a number of levels. It was an answer to Eurovision. It was a method of improving international relations. It was a distraction from the brighter lights of the West. It was a tool of propaganda. It was the very root activity of Communism.

And, it must be said, it was stultifying boring. Military parades, factory tours, military parades – you name it, Intervision rarely had it. But that was also the essence of Communism – and, too often, the essence of Eurovision, for that matter.

Intervision - German Democratic Republic

Intervision - Hungarian Television

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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4 responses to this article

Sarah Boucher 29 December 2013 at 11:49 am

I Know the first one is from East Germany (DFF), but what about the rest of them?

David Rinkevich 7 June 2014 at 4:16 pm

Well,I do think the MT is from hungary (Magyar Televízió) and the one with the skyline looks hungarian as well:

The one with the antenna symbol is from Bulgaria:

I think that the TSS ones might be from the USSR,the tower symbol looks a stylized silhouette of the Ostankino tower.

I hope I’m not mistaken :P

Mike 15 August 2015 at 11:25 am

Was all commie TV “stultifying boring” ? The December 2011 issue of that notorious outlet for Red brainwashing which is “Monitoring Times” carried an article about early 1980’s reception of Soviet and Eastern bloc TV via the Gorizont satellite system. In it the (American) writer makes comparison with typical US network fare with some of the offerings from behind the iron curtain and (shock horror) compliments some of the Eastern variety shows and in particular their relatively relaxed attitude towards partial nudity.

The notion that there is (in some respects) greater freedom of expression in those godless Bolshevik countries than in Gods own United states ? What sort of evil propaganda is that !!!

Eric 1 October 2015 at 4:16 am

From left to right in each row:
1. East Germany
2. Hungary
3-8. USSR
9-10. Hungary
11-16. Bulgaria
17. USSR

I think the author of this article does not give television from the socialist countries of the time too much justice. Yes, there were certainly more “military parades and factory tours” than Western viewers were used to, but there were also movies, comedy and improv shows, music programs, talk shows, cultural programmes… so much more that was just left out of this article, and these programs continue to be repeated in many countries to this day.

And, just as a side note, Finland and Yugoslavia were the two countries that were members of both Eurovision and Intervision, and so most television exchanges between capitalist and socialist countries took place through these two countries.

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