Via Satellite - Transnational Infrastructures in European Television History
With only four days notice, the Soviet Union and its allies in the Eastern Bloc withdrew from the 1967 television broadcast, Our World, intended to be the first live satellite broadcast to cover the entire Northern Hemisphere. The Soviet withdrawal from the Our World broadcast fits well into historical accounts of broadcasting that have traditionally depicted Eastern and Western Europe as strictly isolated from one another, existing in separate universes. While the withdrawal from Our World ultimately cemented the picture of two isolated television systems, the proposed project will take the prior cooperation and two-year planning period of Our World as its vantage point, examining the early development of the Eastern Intersputnik satellite system and the Western Intelsat satellite system, and the plans to join them during the 1967 broadcast.
The aim of the proposed project is to analyse and compare transnational television infrastructures in Cold War Europe. The aim is divided into two research questions that are directed to the subprojects presented below; 1) How can the emergence of two divided but interacting satellite infrastructures be understood in relation to the evolution of transnational broadcasting? and 2) How can the failed cooperation, and the subsequent satellite broadcasts, be understood in relation to the evolution of transnational broadcasting?
Theoretically the project unites two distinct but interrelated fields; first, theoretical perspectives on satellites and television infrastructures addressing the complexity of satellite systems, combining cultural, technological and industrial perspectives in their analysis; second, transnational television history that has emphasized the transnational dynamics of television and advanced an understanding of television relations, exchanges and broadcast flows that have gone beyond or even subverted the borders of national broadcasting.
The project is divided by two case studies, dealing with the history of transnational television infrastructures on macro and micro levels respectively, both relying upon a comparative perspective. The first subproject will address the questions from the point of view of the two satellite systems, Intersputnik and Intelsat. The second subproject will instead focus on a comparison between two satellite broadcasts in 1967, the Western Our World and the Eastern Our Motherland.