The Communist Party’s Struggle Against 'Bougreois Television' 1968-1988
In the 1950s, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union enjoyed a monopoly over information, which was subverted by several radio stations on the other side of the Iron Curtain. From the second half of the 1960s onwards, the government of the ESSR (the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic) faced an even more serious problem –signals from Finnish „bourgeois television“ were being broadcast into Soviet Estonia. The Communist Party tried to fight bourgeois “ideological sabotage” by using technical means, e.g. radio jamming or prohibiting shops from selling audio blocks. The latter were essential devices as they made it possible to watch Finnish television. These so-called technical countermeasures were not successful. The second countermeasure was to discredit “bourgeois television”. For this purpose, Soviet mass media were used to “reveal” the conspiracies of the West’s hostile propaganda machine. My academic interest is to find out how this counterpropaganda “revelation” campaign was waged. The Estonian Communist Party (EKP) used public opinion polls to monitor the enemy’s “propaganda action” and its consequences. The polls showed that Finnish television programmes were more content-rich and catchy than those shown on the Estonian National Television Channel (ETV). In addition, the information shown on Finnish television was immediate and objective; as a result, it was more interesting and reliable than the information provided by ETV. It seemed, however, that the Estonian Communist Party found a way to prevent an increase in the number of people watching Finnish television channels, as well as winning back the Estonian audience from “capitalist television” – by “covering” bourgeois television. It was decided that ETV would broadcast more exciting, informative and topical programmes. Despite the great effort, however, the Estonians continued watching Finnish television until the collapse of the Soviet Union. My interest is in finding out why it was difficult, impossible even, for ETV to “cover” Finnish television signals. The Communist Party and the Soviet ideological state looked at journalism as the educator of people. From the very beginning of the so-called Soviet Revolution, the mission of Soviet journalism was to be a tool in class struggle, and at the same time to create a new ideal man. That is why journalists were looked upon as ideological workers and „party soldiers“. But there are academic studies in Estonia which indicate that the Estonian press adopted an ambivalent role. This means that we cannot always talk about the Soviet Estonian press purely as a propaganda tool – there were also the journalistic practices of „silent resistance“. The third area of my academic interest is to establish whether, in the case of ETV, we can speak about an ambivalent role for the press.