Mass Media

Romania Table of Contents

In the late 1980s, the media continued to serve as propaganda, indoctrination, and disinformation tools to develop support for the regime's domestic and foreign policies and to consolidate Ceausescu's personal power. The system of media control was highly centralized and involved an interlocking group of party and state organizations, supervising bodies, and operating agencies, whose authority extended to all radio and television facilities, film studios, printing establishments, newspapers, and book publishers and to the single news agency. The control apparatus also regulated public access to foreign publications, films, newscasts, books, and radio and television programs.

The 1965 Constitution promised freedom of information, but expressed the reservation that it "cannot be used for aims hostile to the socialist system and to the interests of the working people." In 1971, following a trip to China, Ceausescu reinforced PCR authority over the highest information-control and policy- making bodies in the government. The former State Committee for Culture and Art, which was an element of the Council of Ministers, was reconstituted as the Council for Socialist Culture and Education and answered directly to the Central Committee of the PCR. Similar changes were made in the Committee of Radio and Television, which became the Council of Romanian Radio and Television. In 1985 a joint party-state organization, the National Council for Science and Education, chaired by Elena Ceausescu, was created. Its responsibility was to ensure uniform policy implementation in science, technology, and education, and it provided the regime another mechanism with which to control educational activities.

The propaganda and media section of the Central Committee exercised general guidance and supervision of all publications and dissemination procedures. Its policies and directives, in turn, were implemented by such government-controlled agencies as the Romanian Press Agency and the individual publishing houses, printing establishments, book distribution centers, motion picture studios, and radio and television stations.

The UN's Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which collects statistics from all member states, reported that during the 1980s the number of Romanian daily and periodical publications dropped sharply. Whereas in 1969 Romania published fifty-one dailies, twenty-three weeklies, and two semi- weeklies, in 1985 there were only thirty-six dailies and twenty- four weeklies. Daily newspapers had a total annual circulation of more than 1.1 billion copies. Major mass organizations, government- sponsored groups, local government organs, and the PCR and its subsidiaries published the most important and influential newspapers, both in Bucharest and in the various judete. Little latitude was allowed either in the content or format of the news.

The most authoritative newspaper, Scīnteia, was founded in 1931 as the official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and in the late 1980s had by far the largest daily circulation. It was the outlet for party policy pronouncements and semiofficial government positions on national and international issues. Until the early 1970s, Scīnteia was published as an eight-page daily, but thereafter it was condensed to four pages with one six-page issue per week. Its editorials, feature sections, and chief articles were frequently reprinted or excerpted in the provincial newspapers, shop bulletins, and enterprise newsletters.

After Scīnteia, the most important daily was Romānia Libera, established by the Socialist Unity Front in 1942. Although the paper featured items of national and international interest, it concentrated on local issues. The only paper allowed to publish one-page advertisement sections, Romānia Libera was in great demand. During the 1970s, the daily Munca, published by the UGSR, became a weekly publication. Scīnteia Tineretului, which addressed the younger element of the population and stressed the ideological and political training of youth as the basis for a "sound socialist society," was another national daily. The most widely circulated minority-language newspapers were the Hungarian daily Elöre and the German daily Neuer Weg. Both publications generally repeated the news of the national newspapers but also featured items of minority interest. They promoted the official government position on such sensitive issues as Romanian-Hungarian tensions and served as mouthpieces for anti-Hungarian propaganda.

The number of periodicals also decreased in the 1970s and 1980s. Whereas in 1969 there were 581 Romanian periodicals, in 1985 there were only 422. All periodicals were considered official publications of the various sponsoring organizations and were subject to the same licensing and supervising controls as newspapers. Virtually all magazines and journals were published by mass organizations and party- or government-controlled entities, such as institutes, labor unions, cultural committees, and special interest groups. They covered a broad range of subjects and included technical and professional journals, among them magazines on literature, art, health, sports, medicine, statistics, politics, science, and economics.

Established in 1949, the Romanian Press Agency (Agentia Romāna de Presa--Agerpres) operated as a department of the central government under the control of the PCR Central Committee. Agerpress had exclusive rights to the collection and distribution of all news, pictures, and other press items, both domestic and foreign. In the 1980s, Agerpress increasingly concerned itself with reporting official ceremonial (protocol) events and foreign news. For foreign dissemination, it issued the daily Agerpres News of the Day and the weekly Agerpres Information Bulletin. For domestic consumption, Agerpres distributed about 45,000 words of foreign news coverage daily to various newspapers and periodicals and to radio and television broadcasting stations. It also provided articles from Western wire services to government and party officials in classified bulletins. The Agerpres network of press correspondents in foreign countries was largely dismantled after several defections, and in 1989 Agerpres maintained only a few correspondents in the other East European countries.

After 1960, recognizing the importance of radio as a medium for informing the public and molding attitudes, the regime launched a large-scale effort to build broadcasting facilities and manufacture receiving sets. The number of radio receivers increased from 2 million in 1960 to 3.2 million in 1989. Receivers and amplifiers that reached group audiences in public areas were installed throughout the country.

In the 1980s, Romanian radio broadcast three programs on medium wave and FM. Until the mid-1980s, there were also six regional programs, with transmission in Hungarian, German, and Serbo- Croatian. Each week about 200 hours of broadcasts in thirteen languages were beamed to foreign countries by Radio Bucharest.

Since its inception in 1956, television broadcasting has been closely linked with radio as an increasingly important instrument of "propaganda and socialist education of the masses." Like radio, television operated under the supervision of the Council of Romanian Radio and Television, whose policy guidelines were received directly from the party apparatus. Television frequently came under close scrutiny and criticism by the Central Committee and by national congresses on "socialist education." At the June 1982 Central Committee plenum and again in 1984, Ceausescu denounced the "polluting" influence of Western propaganda and its impact on literary, theatrical, film, and artistic broadcasts and stated that radio and television should report current events from a Marxist-Leninist perspective.

In 1989 there were approximately 3.9 million television sets in Romania. Following the energy crisis of 1984, the two TV channels were merged and broadcasting was reduced from 100 to 22 hours per week. Programs in Hungarian and German were dropped. Because of these cutbacks and the greater ideological content of the broadcasts, the number of viewers actually declined, and some citizens resorted to building their own antennae to receive Bulgarian and Soviet programs.

Before World War II, Romania was one of the leading book- publishing nations in southeastern Europe. But after 1948, the new communist regime nationalized all publishing facilities and made the publishing industry a propaganda and indoctrination instrument. From 1955 to 1966 the number of titles gradually increased, reaching a plateau of about 9,000. In the following decades, however, book publishing declined dramatically, and in 1985 only 3,063 titles were published--about one-third as many as during the 1960s. Not only the number, but also the variety of books published during the 1970s and 1980s was reduced. By far the largest number of titles credited to a single author was attributed to Ceausescu, whose writings were published in Romanian and in foreign languages in large printings.

The Council for Socialist Culture and Education controlled all printing and publishing activities. It formulated policy guidelines for the publishing industry and used other government agencies, the various publishing houses, and book distribution centers to supervise and coordinate day-to-day operations. The council allocated paper, determined the number of books to be printed, and set the sale prices of publications. The number of publishing houses declined from about twenty-five in the early 1970s to eighteen in the late 1980s.

Film production, distribution, and exhibition also operated under the supervision of the Council for Socialist Culture and Education. There were two production studios--one in Bucharest that produced documentaries, newsreels, cartoons, and puppet films, and another in Buftea (near Bucharest) that made feature films.

Until the late 1960s, Romanian films reflected a strong French influence. Both the native and co-produced pictures of this period were of high quality, and several won awards at international film festivals. In later years, however, the regime repressed artistic expression in the film industry, and as a result, fewer and lower- quality films were made. In 1985 only twenty-six films were produced. Furthermore, according to UNESCO statistics, fewer foreign films were allowed into the country. Whereas in 1968 Romania imported 188 feature films, in 1984 the number declined to 72. Also noteworthy is that in 1968 approximately 40 percent of imported films came from the Soviet Union, while 60 percent were from the West, Czechoslovakia, and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), but in 1985 no films were imported from the West nor from any hard-currency country.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress