Domestically, Novosti disseminated information on life in other countries and on life in the Soviet Union. All of these institutional structures fell under the authority of the Party.
The television system in the Soviet Union was centrally controlled through the State Committee for Tele- vision and Radio (Gostelradio), which coordinated the communication of the ideological message sent down from above. The reorganization and elevation of this committee to the all-union level in 1970 made the Chairman of Gostelradio directly responsible to the General Secretary of the Communist Party and the Politburo. (Indeed, the Chairman of Gostelradio had on his desk a series of telephones, one connected directly to the General Secretary.) Directives were passed down to various departments which produced the television programs that aired on Soviet television.
The state owned all of the equipment, paid all salaries, and monitored all broadcasts. In addition to centralized control over the mass media structure, the Party closed off information from outside of the state. Because outside media messages were seen as antithetical to the purpose of socializing the Soviet population, foreign newspapers were not permitted and foreign radio broadcasts were jammed. The degree of control ebbed and flowed over the years, as leaders and policies changed. In addition, in time leaders were less able to control the spread of unauthorized information that came with foreign broadcasting, copy machines, faxes, VCRs, and computers.
Communist Party control meant that journalists presented the Party line and were seen as Party workers. In journalism schools and on the job, journalists were taught that they were to serve the interests of the leadership. Leadership roles in the press and in broadcasting were filled by members of the nomenclature. Party nomenclature lists contained the names of those with acceptable Party credentials. In addition to following clear directives from above, journalists also employed self-censorship. Particularly after the centralization and terror of the Stalinist system, journalists were wary of offending persons in positions of authority.
Aware of the consequences associated with upsetting the political leadership, journalists would not take risks. After Stalin's death, a journalistic union was formed, and in 1959 the first All-Union Congress of Soviet Journalists was held in Moscow. Also during the 1950s, schools and faculties of journalism were established. But little of this challenged the basic principles of the Soviet press that included:
* Party-mindedness or Party loyalty (Partiil1ost)
* High ideological content (ldcil1ost)
* Truthfulness (to Leninist theory) (Praudiuost)
* Popular character
* Accessibility to the masses (Massouost)
* Criticism and self-criticism
Of course, during different periods of time and under different leaders, more or less emphasis was placed on these important characteristics. Soviet leaders could and did replace media personnel who displeased them. Under Stalin, editors of news- papers had to satisfy the leader and spoke with him often for directions. When disappointed, Stalin would have newspaper staff members arrested. Khrushchev removed some editors and replaced them with those more to his liking, including his son-in-law Alexei Adzhubei, who became the editor of Izustia. Brezhnev, who viewed the media as a stabilization force rather than a force for change or dynamism, appointed a new ideology secretary, Mikhail Suslov, who was much more conservative than his predecessors under Khrushchev.
Editors appointed by Khrushchev were sacked and replaced, including Akzhubei who was removed as soon as Khrushchev was ousted from power in 1964. When Gorbachev came to power, he, too, shook up media personnel. Changes were made at Gostelradio, a number of newspapers and journals, the Union of Writers, and the Ministry of Culture among others. Between March 1985 and December 1991 there were five Chairs of Gostelradio: Segei Lapin, Aleksandr Akscnov, Mikhail Ncnashev, Leonid Kravchenko, and Yegor Yakovlev. D.
Because they believed media messages directed from above would transform the masses, early Soviet leaders did not see a need to ascertain the degree to which the masses understood or accepted these messages. Under Stalin, for example, research on public opinion was prohibited. This is not to say that there were no feed- back mechanisms set in place. Although hardly representative, letters to the newspapers and write-in polls were used. The lack of knowledge about the public's perceptions changed slowly with the development of social science inquiry and the analysis of public opinion. With more research on the degree to which media messages were effective came some limited changes in the structure and content of those messages.
By the 1960s and 1970s, Soviet specialists and scholars began to study public opinion and the effect of mass media messages on the public. These scholars found that the commonly accepted hypodermic model of media transmission was seriously flawed.
The hypodermic model asserted that media messages would be received and accepted as the medicine from a hypodermic needle.
Public opinion research told a different story. Audience members did not necessarily understand the political messages, and the credibility of the messages was not high. For example, people were suspicious of media that ignored disasters, crashes, and other crises that they knew had happened or existed. This gap between what was experienced and what was reported was profound and contributed to the skepticism with which many citizens received the news.
Audiences also desired more than domestic political fare and wanted more human interest, entertainment, and international programming. The lack of timeliness also eroded the effectiveness of media messages. Despite enormous attention to the control of the media and the suppression of sources and ideas that contradicted the official line, rumor was very important as a means through which information was communicated. By the late 1970s, Soviet leaders finally recognized that media were not as effective as desired, and there were attempts to address the more glaring weaknesses. In the wake of two major resolutions on the mass media in 1979 and 1983, programs appeared that were critical of some aspects of Soviet life, including corruption and productivity problems. Additional programming was developed that covered the world more broadly. (Today ill the World) was one such program, airing short stories about foreign affairs. Vrcmya, the nightly news, shortened its stories and included more video coverage than in the past. After Brezhnev's death, Yurii Andropov attempted to use the media to invigorate the economy and discipline the society by launching a policy campaign against corruption and laziness. So, for example, camera crews would follow people who were supposed to be at work but were not, and journalists would interview them about why they were not working and, therefore, not contributing to Soviet society.
From 1979, when Stalin's power was clearly consolidated, until the surprise German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, Soviet media reported the good news of Soviet accomplishments in industrializaticm and fostered the image of Stalin as benevolent father of the new Soviet state. Some scholars note that this changed the nature of communication from one of promoting revolutionary action to one of maintaining the status quo. Newspapers reported the fulfillment and over fulfillment of Five-Year Plans, lauding the accomplishments of the workers. Stalin's picture and his words were prominently displayed, and he was shown taking flowers from school children, as the best friend of all Soviet youngsters. His picture was often placed with that of Lenin on the front page of newspapers, tying Stalin to the leader of the Revolution. This excessive adoration of Stalin would later be called Stalin's cult of personality. In the arts and literature, socialist realism was adopted to structure content. Socialist real- ism called for the correct depiction of the accomplishments and achievements of the Soviet state and its heroes, leading the country to socialism. The press did not report on extensive opposition to collectivization or on the famine in Ukraine from 932 to 1934. Bad news was not permitted because the role of media was to support and herald the achievements of the Soviet state and the Communist Party. Accidents, disasters, crime, human interest, society news, and advertising were not covered in the Soviet media.
Class warfare could be reported on with calls for the Soviet people to rally against the enemies of the Communist Party and Soviet state. Stalin did use the press as an instrument against his opponents, real or perceived. Enemies were labeled and condemned with names such as 'enemies of the people,' 'Trotskyite degenerates,' 'swine,' 'rabble,' 'insects,' and 'vermin.' Mass terror and repression in the 1930s and the show trials of 1937-1938 were supported by press coverage. Not only did newspapers print their own journalists' stories supporting the trials, but letters from peasants, workers, Party members, and other Soviet citizens were printed that condemned those accused. The content of Soviet media changed during World War II in a number of different ways. First, in the 1930s, the Soviet media presented an anti-fascist tine. After the 1930 Soviet-German nonaggression pact, the anti-fascist rhetoric disappeared. When the Germans invaded…