Growing up in post-war Croatia, I recall TV programs being vastly different from those we get to enjoy today and as it jogged my memory to the point of very first thing I saw on TV, I couldn’t help but wonder what my aunt’s perspective on this would look like. These earliest TV memories of mine were exactly what greatly shaped my initial understanding of the world outside my country and enticed me to gain a more in-depth view on the topic of wordly matters, so naturally – I expected my aunt’s TV experience to be somehow complementary.
” News of the spreading of television viewing around the world and its imminent arrival in Yugoslav homes in the latter half of the 1950s provoked a familiar mixture of anxiety and enthusiasm. The prospect of mass television viewing prompted fears of cultural mediocrity, physical and mental passivity, but also inspired utopian projections of a more integrated, educated and culturally refined society. ” (Mihelj 2013: 255).
She began her grand TV memory recollection by explaining the extent of influence then Yugoslavian government had on all media outlets. Being born in 1957. to a rather poor middle-class family, she couldn’t enjoy the privilege of her family owning their own TV.
Regardless, she remembers that time with great fondness and tells me that only one family per mile owned a TV and were even kind enough to host news watching several times a week. Educational shows for kids were not as numerous but one in particular, as my aunt claims, shaped her childhood popularly dubbed as ‘Medo & Slavica’.
“What you need to remember here, is that we lived within a regime governed by a single, powerful but extremely charismatic dictator. Everything passed through his filter and if it was seen as a politically sensitive material or a piece of enemy propaganda, it would be purged right then and there and we’d never get to see it or hear it,“ she explains.
But not everything was as grim. She continued on by telling me that content-wise, TV programmes were actually entertaining for the most part. In the beginning years of TV broadcast, the news was taking up a large part of the daily TV schedule – three times a day in fact. If you couldn’t watch it on TV, you’d hear it on the radio, she says.
Yugoslavia might have not been the best country to grow up in, but it certainly cared about keeping its citizens cultured and well-informed, as there was an abundance of quizzes, informative shows for all ages, sport and festival broadcasts, and both foreign and locally produced films.
My aunt wouldn’t get to watch her own TV until she was 16. But she only remembers how much the content improved overall – there were teen shows that taught young men and women behavioral etiquettes, something that I as a millennial would love to have seen, but right now have a hard time wrapping my mind around. She remembers how her father insisted on the whole family watching documentaries. “He was so adamant, wouldn’t take no for an answer,” she said.
But as it turns out, things she learned have stuck with her all those years. My own understanding of this was that having to absorb all this media content would somehow ruin her TV experience to all the other content in the future, but that was hardly the case.
As much as some of it seemed quite technologically limited, she says there is a lingering feeling of gratitude for all of it as it prompted her to explore further and seek out every bit of knowledge she would show interest in. Now, at the age of 61, she agrees with me that TV can still play a vital role in people’s lives if we find a way to effectively enable quality informative content worldwide.