Deutscher Fernsehfunk 1966 

16 June 2014 tbs.pm/3748

Das wochenprogramm - des Deutschen fernsehfunks, 6-12 November 1966

Das wochenprogramm des Deutschen fernsehfunks, 6-12 November 1966

It’s not always clear what television was for in the Eastern Bloc. The general poverty of most communist countries meant that it was rarely a “mass medium” in the way radio and government newspapers were. At the same time, it couldn’t be an instrument for entertaining the privileged few in a system that was not meant to have a privileged few. So television generally sat around making worthy documentaries and providing stilted news.

West German television penetration into East Germany, by anorak2 (en.wiki) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

West German television penetration into East Germany, by anorak2 (en.wiki) GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

But things were slightly different in East Germany. The country was deeply penetrated by West German television signals, so those with television had the ability to see better, alternative programmes by pointing their aerials to the west. This was reflected in East German television’s output, which contained popular programming like drama and comedy in order to keep viewers from tuning away.

Of course, communism being communism, there was also a lot of dull, instructional programming too. Here Deutscher Fernsehfunk is promoting a programme about a milk factory as the main item to watch this week – dull even by Eastern Bloc standards, but at least shoved to a Sunday afternoon rather than appearing in primetime.

There was one other way of tempting people away from ARD and ZDF in the west: see 9:15pm on Monday and 10:35am on Tuesday for the bizarre ‘Der schwarze Kanal‘.

This article has been corrected since publication to reflect an error in German translation pointed out in the comments.

You Say

6 responses to this article

Nigel Stapley 25 June 2014 at 8:46 pm

Chums, just a pedantic note (“Laaaa!”).

The service’s name was in fact “Deutscher Fernsehfunk”, and this really should be the title of the piece. What you have instead is the genitive form, meaning “of Deutscher Fernsehfunk”, which is the latter part of the caption of the image: “Das Wochenprogramm des Deutschen Fernsehfunks” = “The Week’s Programmes of Deutscher Fernsehfunk”.

Russ J Graham 26 June 2014 at 10:48 am

Corrected, with thanks!

Nigel Stapley 27 June 2014 at 9:14 pm

Erm…there’s still a stray ‘s’ at the end…

Andrew Bowden 29 June 2014 at 9:19 am

Should be gone now!

Mike 6 December 2014 at 12:49 pm

The oft-repeated notion that Eastern TV was all terrible is not universally accepted.

Ive heard many German residents (not just Eastern either) reminisce warmly of their Children’s programmes, films and variety shows such as “Ein Kessel Buntes”. Some DFF productions still enjoy a cult following today.

Elsewhere in the Eastern bloc there may (thanks to incompatible standards, language barriers or simple geographical distance) have been less imperative for TV broadcasters to compete with Western counterparts but the schedulers no doubt reserved their most attractive offerings for times when imperialist radio stations such as Radio Free Europe, VOA and BBC were broadcasting in the local language.

Romanian TV imported “Dallas” in the probably misguided hope that it would educate the populace about how “decadent” Western society was.

Joanne Gray 28 August 2017 at 9:08 pm

I recently discovered on You Tube some episodes of top East German cop show Polizeiruf 110, which started in the early 70s. This show survived reunification and is still going strong today. From the episodes I’ve seen of those made under the Communist regime (plus my basic understanding of German) it was a very well written and performed show, focussing usually on a murder investigation undertaken by the Volkspolizei in East Berlin. The only thing that made the show stand out as being a Communist production when compared to other crime dramas made in that era is the vehicles used (Trabants mostly). The cops weren’t sinister or sneaky Stasi, nor were they shown as being eager to transport their suspects to the nearest gulag for the slightest indiscretion against the “party line”. They were honest cops, doing their job just as their Western counterparts would. It was a real eye opener for me to see just how “ordinary” the everyday work of East German cops were after growing up to believe that Eastern authority figures were all “bad guys”.

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