Television Broadcasting Leads Romania's March toward an Open, Democratic Society

Article excerpt

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     WAS     WAS

TV programs             65      64      66      67      62

Radio programs          15      15      15      13      13

Newspapers7              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. …