The politics of privacy on state socialist television

2016-04-20T09:18:33Z (GMT) by Sabina Mihelj Simon Huxtable
Existing theories of television often emphasise the inherently private nature of the medium: its propensity for personal narratives and modes of address, and its centrality to domestic life. Yet is this perception of television universally applicable? As this article argues, state socialist television was marked by a different relationship with the private-public boundary, rooted in the public thrust of the communist vision of modern society. Although television became, much as elsewhere in the world, a medium consumed in the comfort of one’s home, the narratives it offered were rarely centred exclusively on the private realm, and often privileged communal and public values even if they were set in domestic spaces or included plots centred on love and friendship. It is also important to note that the nature of televised representations of privacy in the socialist world changed over time, and differed across countries, with some countries being markedly more open to depictions of privacy than others. This is demonstrated through a longitudinal and comparative investigation of domestic serial fiction covering the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, examined in the context of domestic political changes, while also acknowledging the impact of other factors, including transnational programme flows. The results suggest that theories of television need to pay more attention to the variety of television globally, and acknowledge the multiple forms of modern television cultures, anchored in competing visions of modern society.