Der schwarze Kanal

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Title graphic for East German television programme Der Schwarze Kanal (The Black Channel). The black, white and red sash on the (West German) Eagle's chest is the flag of the pre-World War I German Empire while the background view of rooftops/antennas represents a parody the 1960s logo of ARD's news programme Tagesschau.

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Der schwarze Kanal ("The Black Channel") was a series of political propaganda programmes broadcast weekly between 1960 and 1989 by East German television. Each edition was made up of recorded extracts from recent West German television programmes re-edited to include a Communist commentary.[1]

Penetration of West German TV reception (grey) in East Germany for ARD (regional channels NDR, HR, BR and SFB). Areas with no reception (black) were jokingly referred to as "Valley of the Clueless" (Tal der Ahnungslosen) while ARD was said to stand for "Außer (except) Rügen und Dresden" .

The programme was hosted by Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler and began on 21 March 1960. The name "Black channel" is a play on words in that in the German language "black channel" is a term used by plumbers to describe a sewer. The name and the concept of the programme were originally a reaction to a West German programme named Die rote Optik ("The red viewpoint") authored by journalist Thilo Koch, which ran between 1958 and 1960 and analysed East German television clips.[2] Although the programme was primarily intended for domestic (East German) consumption, the programme makers (at least in the early days) hoped that those in the West who could receive DFF would also watch.[2]

The geography of the divided Germany meant that West German television signals (particularly ARD) could be received fairly readily in most of East Germany other than parts of Eastern Saxony around Dresden (earning the latter the nickname "valley of the clueless" for this reason[3]). Whilst radio signals from international broadcasters like the BBC and the American-backed local station RIAS in West Berlin could be jammed, it was diplomatically and technically awkward to block West German television as it would have been impossible to do so (with any degree of effectiveness) without affecting reception in parts of West Germany as well which (apart from being outlawed by treaty) in turn could have prompted the West Germans to retaliate against Eastern broadcasts.[1]

The solution, as seen by Deutscher Fernsehfunk, was to record items from the ARD and ZDF that were unwelcome in the East or provided a different spin on a news story and replay the items on the main DFF1 channel with a commentary "explaining" what was really "meant" by the item, or how the item was "untrue" or "flawed".[1]

The programme was not popular in East Germany. In the book Stasiland, Anna Funder quotes an urban myth portraying engineers in power stations as struggling to stop a blackout from the power surge due to East Germans switching off their sets when the programme came on. This may be exaggerated, as viewers could have switched to DFF2 or even West German television instead. The 20-minute programme was usually scheduled for transmission at around 21.30 on Monday evenings, before or after a film or some other popular item[2] in the hope that viewers tuning in early to catch the film would see the programme.[2] According to some sources official surveys gave a programme a 5% audience figure[2] although it's difficult to verify the accuracy of such a survey in the atmosphere of cold war Germany.

The programme ceased broadcasting on 30 October 1989, just ahead of the opening of the borders with the west on 9 November, at which point the East German television service declared itself "free of government interference"[4] before merging less than a year later with its formerly rival West German television networks as a result of German reunification.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Hancock, Dafydd (2001-01-01). "Fade to black". Intertel from Transdiffusion. Retrieved 2006-02-20. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Grape, Andreas (September 2000). "Die digitalisierten Sendemanuskripte - Der schwarze Kanal" (in German). Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv. Retrieved 2007-05-12. "With the transmission title black channel was meant also the west television, by itself the "dirt and Unrat, which would have to actually flow on the sewage farms", thus moderator of Schnitzler, into the dwellings of the spectators poured. Karl Eduard von Schnitzler, who coined/shaped the transmission by editorship and presentation as Chefkommentator of the GDR television considerably, wanted to serve here "to a certain extent as purification plant"" 
  3. ^ Mitchener, Brandon (1994-11-09). "East Germany Struggles, 5 Years After Wall Fell". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2007-05-12. [dead link]
  4. ^ Schnitzler, Karl-Eduard von (1992). Der Rote Kanal (in German). Hamburg: Nautilus. ISBN 3-89401-211-0.