Opening their Windows to the World
Romania's defense minister says his country now has more backing for fast
admission into NATO. He says France, Italy, and Spain were showing support.
Romania wants to be in the first wave of new members expected to be announced
this summer. Romanian leaders recently sought support from the once exiled
king who is now back in favor, Romania's Pro-TV reports. (CNN World Report,
March 14, 1997)
After years of inconspicuous absence, Romanian-produced news is now appearing on television sets worldwide. The segment produced by Pro-TV for CNN World Report and introduced by anchorman Ralph Wenge is an example. At the same time, Western-style programming and production techniques are appearing with unprecedented regularity on television screens across Romania, an East European nation of some 23 million people that until this decade was one of the world's most closed societies.
The changes seen on Romanian television screens are no less than revolutionary and perhaps no less important. Television fueled the country's violent Christmas uprising of 1989 and has been both the focus and forum of its political and economic debates since. Polls funded by the Soros Foundation for an Open Society Romania have for the last three years shown that some 60% or more of the Romanian population considers television to be the most important source of information regarding national political life (see Table 1). As Don Kirk (1989) wrote in USA Today, "Such is the influence of state TV [in Romania] that everyone agrees no one can rule effectively without it" (p. A4). The continued evolution of international broadcasting in Romania is a crucial component in its drive toward political stability, a free market economy, and possibly even acceptance into the European Community and NATO. This evolution must include both an increase in independent broadcasting activities, continuation of international broadcast exchanges, and the maintenance and improvement of Romania's state-run broadcasting units.
Table 1 Percentage of respondents who cite source as most important for national political information Date of Poll: Mr 95 Jn 95 Se 95 De 95 Mr 96 Poll Taker: ICCV CURS ICCV CURS ICCV TV programs 61 58 59 60 67 Radio programs 20 21 17 20 16 Newspapers 7 9 8 9 7 Talking with friends 5 7 6 5 4 I am not interested 7 5 1 6 6 in political life Date of Poll: Jl 96 Oc 96 Mr 97 Ju 97 Se 97 Poll Taker: CURS CURS MMT LUAS LUAS TV programs 65 64 66 67 62 Radio programs 15 15 15 13 13 Newspapers 6 7 6 8 7 Talking with friends 6 6 5 4 9 I am not interested 8 8 8 8 9 in political life
Source: Soros Foundation for an Open Society Romania (http:/www. sfos.ro/news/barometru/massmedia.html) Key: ICCV = The Institute of Life Quality Research: CURS = Center of Urban and Regional Sociology; MMT Metro Media Transilvania; LUAS = University Social Research Laboratory.
This article examines the evolution of international television broadcasting in Romania through three distinct intervals: a pre-revolutionary period from World War II to 1989, the revolutionary period of December 1989, and the post-revolutionary period from 1990 to present. These periods provide evidence for evaluating Romania's successes and shortcomings in improving the quality of its national broadcasting and provide suggestions for further improvement.
WW II to 1989: Stunted Development
While most of the world's nations were employing new innovations in television broadcast technology to widen their world view, Romania was intent on keeping its own view as narrow as possible. Romania's state television went on the air in 1956, but "for three decades, Ceausescu controlled the nation's only television station, featuring long, favourable monologues on his regime and its social policy" Millen, 1993, p. 25).
According to the Romanian Communist Party master plan, the role of the mass media, including television, was to promote the ideological, political, and educational activities of the Party: "Mass media must become a powerful factor in the development of social democracy, a tribune for the assertion of the principles of socialist ethics and equity, for the continuous improvement of the general activity of building Socialism and Communism" (Partidul Comunist Roman, 1975, p. 167). Following that directive, the government maintained strict control over all forms of public information and communication, going so far as to require typewriters to be registered with the police. Copy machines and computers were nearly non-existent. According to Carothers (1996), "Access to foreign sources of information [in Romania] was available to a very small circle of party loyalists," and television, radio, and newspapers were reduced to "slavish propaganda tools" (p. 81).
Not surprisingly, Romanians' increasing dissatisfaction and mistrust of their own state television led them to seek out other sources of information. According to journalist Stefan Niculescu-Maier, a political prisoner under Ceausescu, "We didn't have the right to go abroad and satellite television was forbidden so it was through the (international) media, through …