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Scandinavian children’s television in the 1970s: an institutionalisation of ‘68’?

Helle Strandgaard Jensen
Traduction(s) :
La télévision scandinave pour enfants dans les années 1970 : une institutionnalisation du « 68 scandinave » ?

Résumé

In my paper I investigate how the Scandinavian broadcasting corporations’ children and youth departments were influenced by the changes in norms for children’s media which happened around “68”. My analysis is influenced by new work on Scandinavian “68”, which has shown that institutions in the region were very receptive towards the ideas held by rebelling youth. I look at how radical ideas about children’s media culture made their way in to the well-established broadcasting institutions and what expression they found when negotiated in policy papers and concrete programs. The analysis is made in three steps. First I scrutinize the Scandinavian “68” historiography to find out which ideas that has been deemed prominent within the regions youth rebellion and how these can be operationalized for an analysis of children’s television. Secondly, I analyze one of the major events in Scandinavian “68” regarding children’s media: the publication of Gunilla Ambjörnsson’s Trash Culture for Children and the symposium at Hässleby Castle in 1969, which the Nordic Council initiated because of all the big debate the book caused. Thirdly, I investigate how the main points from the book and the subsequent symposium made their way into the children and youth departments of the national broadcasters in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, as well as the shared policies and programs made together by these departments within the Nordic broadcasting union, Nordvision.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 Fritz Raben, Prix Jeunesse International 1972: Nogle betragtninger om børne- og ungdomsfjernsyn gl (...)
  • 2 It is unclear from Raben’s account if he by Scandinavia means Denmark, Sweden and Norway or all of (...)
  • 3 Helle Strandgaard Jensen, “Prix Jeunesse and the Negotiation of Citizenship in Children’s Televisio (...)
  • 4 In 1972 43 broadcasting companies from 32 different countries participated in Prix Jeunesse. In tot (...)

1“We often make mistakes in Scandinavia – of course we do, but it is really bad out there1.” This rather unfavourable judgement of non-Scandinavian2 children’s television was made by the Danish television producer, Fritz Raben, as part of published commentary about the Prix Jeunesse festival in 1972. Prix Jeunesse was an international children’s television festival in Munich initiated in 1963-64. The event was meant to be a platform where the best productions in children’s television around the world could be showcased and discussed, and it soon become an important arena for international discussions on new policies and programme ideas3. As we can see from Raben’s comment, the opportunity which the festival offered to compare ones’ own programmes to the rest of the worlds’ made the Scandinavians feel that they did a better job than everybody else in providing quality television for children4.

  • 5 Op cit. F. Raben, Prix Jeunesse International, p. 35.
  • 6 Ibid. p. 38.

2From the rest of Raben’s commentary it is clear that to him “good quality” programmes were ones that dealt with “real social problems”, were truthful, and introduced child viewers to “[real] life” in what he described as an “open ended” way5. He evidently saw Scandinavian children and youth departments as pioneering this kind of programme. To him, Scandinavian broadcasters created the right kind of controversial, quality programmes that went “up against the establishment” and fought “society’s reactionary powers”6. All in all, Scandinavian broadcasters were, in Raben’s view, more progressive than those found in the rest of the world.

3When he talked about the content of the Scandinavian programmes, Raben’s rhetoric’s seems to closely resemble that of the “68” youth rebellion. He praised the best of them for being anti-establishment, progressive, and empowering children by informing them about “the real world”. He also believed that the world had changed drastically in the five years since 1968, and was implicitly attributing the changes within Scandinavian children’s television to the events that had taken place in that year. But how to investigate the influence of “68” on as complex an institutional setup as that of children’s broadcasting? And if one wishes to do so, which then are the parameters that can be laid out for such an investigation?

  • 7 Existing historiography on broadcasting history in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden is very diverse. In (...)

4In the following analysis of the children and youth departments in Scandinavia I will try to define in which way their policies and productions drew on ideas usually attributed to the “68” youth rebellion7. To do so I will analyse how radical viewpoints about children’s culture entered the Scandinavian broadcasters’ children’s and youth departments in the late 1960s and early 1970s. My definition of what such “radical viewpoints” are will build on findings from existing historiography that has defined “68” as a distinct cultural phenomenon.

1968 in a Scandinavian context

  • 8 Terry H Anderson, “1968: The American and Scandinavian experiences”, Scandinavian Journal of Histor (...)
  • 9 Tora Korsvold had described how the new left’s criticism of welfare state institutions to some exte (...)
  • 10 On this discussion see, Anette Warring, “Around 1968–Danish Historiography”, Scandinavian Journal o (...)

5The article explores children’s television and the influence of “68” within a wider history of children’s media and what could be called the socio-cultural environment of the long “68”. The bulk of research on “68” focuses on radical youth movements and their distinct, radical political and cultural manifestations. This gives preference to noticeable events in prominent centres such as Paris, Prague, and Chicago. In Scandinavia, however, institutions were more receptive to change than in, for instance, the US8. This suggests that the rebellious youth’s clash with the establishment might have been less visible here than elsewhere, even though it had a strong impact on a structural level9. This of course also makes it all the more difficult to say if the change in mentalities around “68” was caused mainly by a general change within the welfare system and its institutions or by the criticism offered by the rebelling youth. Consequently, this is a longstanding discussion in the historiography and the memory politics of “68” in Scandinavia10. It is beyond the scope of this article to intervene directly in this debate, but as the analysis is about the impact of “68” on a specific institutional environment (national broadcasting) it does nevertheless offer insights into how the institution-rebellion dynamic played out in a particular setting.

  • 11 Tor Egil Førlander, “Introduction to the Special Issue on 1968”, Scandinavian Journal of History, 3 (...)
  • 12 Op.cit.Førlander, Introduction”, 2008, p. 319.
  • 13 Henrik Nissen, Landet blev by. Danmarks historien vol. 14, Copenhagen: Politiken/Gyldendal, 2004/5, (...)
  • 14 Op.cit. Førland, “Introduction,” 2008, p. 317.

6The violent outcomes of clashes between the authorities and protesting youth in the US and continental Europe between 1964 and 1968 bears almost no resemblance to the Scandinavian “68”. The absence of violence in the Scandinavian “68” has often been attributed to the authorities’ permissive attitude and a desire for peaceful solutions on both sides11. An example of the permissive attitude is the Oslo police chief who ordered his forces to “let themselves be beaten” rather than strike first against Vietnam protesters12. Another example is the rector of Copenhagen University who prevented the police from storming the occupied university buildings and days later led negotiations for equal representation of students and professors in departmental study boards13. However, despite the less spectacular nature of the demonstrations, occupations, and strikes in the Nordic countries, the influence of the student revolt and radical protest movements (peace activists, feminists) has been deemed just as wide here as elsewhere14. In his introduction to a special issue on 1968 in the Scandinavian Journal of History, Tor Egil Førland writes:

  • 15 Ibid. p. 317.

The anti‐capitalist and anti‐American worldview of the New Left is as entrenched among former sixties radicals in Scandinavia as elsewhere in the West, and is still influential at the universities, in the media and in the arts. Respect for parents, teachers, elders and authorities in general has dropped to the extent that the formal second person pronoun has all but disappeared from the Scandinavian languages. Life styles that were deemed immoral and offensive in the sixties… are fully accepted. Opposition groups' disregard of police rules and regulations and the search for provocative action seem an integral part of Scandinavian political culture. The cultural earthquake that changed norms and relations in Paris, Berlin and New York apparently did the same, only less violently, in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo and Helsinki15.

7Aside from showing the Scandinavian ‘68’s differences and similarities to elsewhere, Førland’s description can also be used as a basis for a working definition of how to understand “68” as a socio-cultural phenomenon. For the purposes of this article, I will emphasise anti-authoritarianism and a break with monocultural norms and ideals as the central characteristics of the Scandinavian “68”.

  • 16 Thomas Ekman Jørgensen, “The Scandinavian 1968 in a European perspective”, Scandinavian Journal of (...)
  • 17 The anthology 1968 dengang og nu [1968 then and now] edited by Morten Bendix Andersen and Niklas Ol (...)
  • 18 Helle Strandgaard Jensen, From Superman to Social Realism: Children’s Media and Scandinavian Childh (...)
  • 19 Op. Cit. T. E. Jørgensen, “The Scandinavian 1968”, 2008.

8Thomans Ekman Jørgensen has described how the cultural and social changes in Scandinavia related to the protest movements were characterized by a low level of social conflict, but “a very high level of social integration16”. The combination of, on the one hand, few explicit manifestations of protesting youth in the (calendar) year 1968, and, on the other hand, a significant socio-cultural impact of the worldviews put forward by students, feminists, artists, peace activists, and radical left-wing political groupings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, has led to the treatment of this period as a distinct phenomenon in Scandinavian historiography – often under the combined label “68”17. In recent historiography specifically on children’s culture and the social and cultural unrest, the years between 1963 and 1980 have been suggested as a period where some of the main characteristics of a Scandinavian “68” surfaced and influenced public debates about children’s media18. This meant the development of ideas of children’s media as fostering anti-authoritarianism and emancipation, and as a place where ‘making the private political’ was debated in Scandinavian children’s media milieus during this period. To what extent were these ideas picked up within broadcasting institutions? Similarly we can ask how the three other elements highlighted by Ekman Jørgensen as central to (the long) European “68” were rearticulated in the programme policy and production19? The first element is “equality” meaning “a revolt for equality and participation”. This can be investigated in relation to broadcasting as how viewers/listeners are conceptualised. The second element is an idea of “more aesthetic demands, not necessarily dependent on ever-increasing affluence”. This can be investigated in relation to genres and other aesthetic dimensions of the communication process. Lastly, “post-colonial” issues, meaning a greater awareness of the power struggles between political centres and subaltern periphery. This can be used as an analytic tool to look for new (post-colonial) themes in children’s broadcasting, but also other, similar rebellions against mono-cultural thinking and orientations towards the needs of children as a distinct and diverse group.

Changing norms in children’s media culture

  • 20 Ib Bondebjerg, “Opbruddet fra monopolkulturen. En institutions-og programhistorisk analyse af dansk (...)

9In the 1960s and 1970s all the Scandinavian countries had state monopoly on broadcasting. Furthermore, within each country television programmes were only produced by the national public service broadcasting institutions (Sweden: SVT, Norway: NRK, Denmark: DR). Broadcasting was payed for by a licence fee and thus not financially controlled by the government. The broadcasters’ policies were modelled on the BBC’s early ideals of providing fair and balanced information, education and entertainment to all the nations’ citizens. In each country a board of directors was responsible for the overall content, but they only intervened after production, before the programmes were due to be aired, and would only do is if the programmes did not live up to the principles of fairness (unbiased representation of political issues) or the quality expected by a national media organisation. These boards had members appointed by both political and non-political organisations. There was thus no direct political control over the content that was broadcast by the corporations. On the contrary, media historians in Denmark have, for instance, pointed out how journalistic practices within the national broadcasting corporation (DR) in the 1960 created a strong “own voice” independent from already established cultural and political institutions20.

  • 21 Gunilla Ambjörnsson, Skräpkultur åt barnen, Stockholm: Bonniers, 1968. Preface.

10The history of the “68” youth rebellion and media for children in Scandinavia in some ways begins in Czechoslovakia. From the beginning of the 1960s, children’s literature had been the object of much debate, but these debates were relatively restricted to specific media (comics, books, magazines). But after a trip to Prague in 1967, Gunilla Ambjörnsson, who would become a central figure in the Scandinavian debates about children’s culture in the late 1960s, broadened the discussions from this particular field, to also include film, theatre and television. She did this with her book Skräpkultur åt barnen (Trash Culture for Children) which was published in April 1968. Based on a comparison between the production of children’s media in Sweden and Czechoslovakia, Ambjörnsson criticised virtually all the products available to Swedish children, which she found to be either boring sanctuaries of a time that actually never existed – or mass-produced trash21. She argued that historical and contemporary plays, literature, TV programmes and film all failed to give children a handle on reality and thus did not take them seriously. In a rather uncritical fashion she contrasted this with Czechoslovakian media products for children, which she praised for being part of a production and distribution system where children were taken seriously as citizens (and media consumers) in their own right.

  • 22 Op.cit., H. S. Jensen, From Superman to Social Realism, 2017, p. 81.
  • 23 The official inter-governmental body for co-operation in the Nordic Region.
  • 24 “Children’s culture” (barnkultur/børnekultur) was a unifying term for all kinds of media products m (...)

11Ambjörnsson’s book sparked much debate all over Scandinavia. She was criticised for her naïve portrayal of Czechoslovakia, but the majority of the numerous reviews of Trash Culture for Children in both Sweden, Denmark and Norway agreed that children’s culture was an area which required more attention and needed to change22. The Nordic Council of Ministers23 took note of the debate which the book caused, as it spread beyond the small milieus directly linked to “children’s culture”24, to become an issue discussed in nationwide newspapers, on radio, television and journals normally reserved for “adult culture”. In 1969 this resulted in the Council hosting a symposium entitled “Children and Culture” at Hässleby Castle in Sweden.

  • 25 For a detailed description of the disagreement between the keynote, Åse Gruda Skard, and the new ge (...)

12At the symposium, central figures in the area of children’s culture in the five Nordic countries met and discussed children’s media for three days. At the end of the symposium 10 theses about “children’s culture” were formulated25. The theses are clearly marked by some of the “68” youth revolt’s basic ideas of equality and participatory democracy. They stressed above all children’s equal worth as human beings and their right to be treated as such in all aspects of life. Looking at the individual theses, we can see this was developed in the second thesis, which emphasised that children’s media culture should:

  • 26 Barn og kultur: Nordisk kulturkommisjons symposium, Hässelby slott 29.11-1.12.69. Unpublished sympo (...)

“support the development of humans who are strong and free, and with greater independence can dictate their own course of life and improve the society they live in,” [and thesis number three then added that “the greatest enemy of children’s culture is that which is authoritarian and uninspiring26”.

13The conclusion of the entire statement was that “society [must] redistribute its resources,” a solution which clearly resonates with the youth rebellion’s claim for a higher degree of social and economic equality. Many of the core “68” ideas mentioned by Ekman Jørgensen were thus represented in the theses, as children were conceptualised as active participants in society. With the 10 theses a new generation of reformers urged the Nordic Council and the wider public of the Nordic countries to recognise and nurture what they saw as children’s particular needs and wants, children’s ways-of-living and their wishes for society.

  • 27 Op cit. H. S. Jensen, From Superman to Social Realism, 2017.

14Ambjörnsson’s book, the symposium, and the many articles and the other publications that followed were manifestations of the youth rebellion’s influence on Scandinavian and Nordic children’s culture27. These writings are not expressions of a political line clearly marked up within one of the new left’s many doctrinaire political factions (Maoists, Leninists, Trotskyists) or the outcome of one particular countercultural lifestyle (such as communal living). Rather, the majority were a result of a willingness to take children’s interests seriously, to place value on children’s culture (their way-of-living), and to open up to children’s participation in decisions that concerned their life. In practice there were many discussions about what this actually meant. Librarians, authors and critics did, for instance, have heated discussions about whether children’s desire for comics, cheap long-series books and magazines should be met in libraries – or, if this was an expression of “false consciousness” and thus should not be accommodated.

  • 28 Ibid.

15The formulation of children’s media policy on a Nordic level had been undergoing an increasing institutionalisation since the Second World War, often with the three Scandinavian countries taking the lead28. During the comics debate in the 1950s a committee on children’s reading had been established, and the area of children’s films had also been a subject of inter-Nordic collaboration. By the end of the 1960s the collaboration had consolidated in permanent institutions. One of such was the Working Group for Children and Young People in the Nordic Broadcasting Union (Nordvision). Several of the members of this group had been at the Children and Culture symposium at Hässleby Castle as representatives of their national broadcasters. In the following I will analyse how the national broadcasters in Norway, Sweden and Denmark incorporated the new ideas about childhood which emerged with the “68” youth rebellion, and how they were fortified by their collaboration within Nordvision.

Transfer of progressive viewpoints

16In Norway the Children and Culture symposium was reported back to the national broadcasting service (NRK) by Bo Wærenskjold, an employee of the children and youth department. Wærenskjold’s report highlighted the so-called “Solrød-project” from Denmark and a user survey made by the Swedish broadcasting service (SVT). The Solrød-project was a cultural studies project in Denmark where a group of pupils in upper secondary school (9th grade) had helped researchers to formulate questions for a survey amongst 600 schoolchildren (1st-10th grade) about what they did in their leisure time. The 9th graders had also helped to collect and analyse the data and they presented their findings at the symposium. The progressive, egalitarian idea of child-driven research appealed to Wæreskjold, and he suggested that similar methods should be adopted by the NRK’s children’s department to find out more about viewers’ every-day lives and what programmes they would like to watch. Similarly, he expressed admiration for the extensive field work amongst children which had been carried out by SVT in order to gather more knowledge about their young viewers’ interests as expressed by children themselves. He saw this as a way to make television which was more in tune with its viewers. Finally, he also highlighted the Children and Culture symposium’s second thesis on child emancipation as being of particular interest for NRK.

  • 29 Gunilla Ambjörnsson, “Anteckninger från den stora entusiasmens tid”, in Gunilla Ambjörnsson (red.), (...)
  • 30 Op cit. I. Rydin, Barnens röster, 2000, p. 193.
  • 31 Ibid. p. 192.

17In Sweden, Ambjörnsson was herself a direct link between the symposium and the national broadcasting service. She had produced a controversial programme for SVT in 1968 and, after being made to work as a typist for three months for the general secretary of the corporation as punishment, she was then hired as a producer for SVT Channel 1 in 196929. Besides Ambjörnsson, the children’s departments at the two Swedish children’s television channels also had several other employees that were active in the “radical discussions of children’s culture”, as Ingegerd Rydin has shown in her work30. When they formulated programme policy, a central reference point for SVT’s producers at Channel 2 was the user survey that had so impressed Wærenskjold at Hässelby. The producers had visited homes, schools and daycare centres in Sweden and recorded about 1000 answers from children aged 3-1331. Their answers had revealed that children were interested in all sorts of topics that were not currently part of the children’s schedule. They included topics such as war, power, bullying, hunger, religion, drugs and pollution. Following up on these interests amongst children, the producers echoed the calls for democratisation and empowerment via information that were being made loudly by the wider youth rebellion.

  • 32 Helle Strandgaard Jensen, “TV as Children's Spokesman: Conflicting notions of Children and Childhoo (...)
  • 33 Attachment #85, meeting w. Board of directors, Danmarks Radio, November 1972 (prior attachment #113 (...)

18In Denmark new employees in the Children, Youth and School department had in 1966 made a series of programmes called How to raise your parents. The antiauthoritarian ideas expressed in this series, and a few others like it, came to the forefront in 1968 when a reorganisation of the corporation henceforth separated educational programming from that orientated towards children’s leisure time. The new head of the Children and Youth department, Mogens Vemmer stated that television should be children’s spokesperson since they had no other interest organisations32. In the department’s policy it was clearly stated that children should be able to express themselves freely and stand up to adult authorities – and it was television’s duty to help them in doing that. This policy was criticised by some right wing debaters, but it was strongly backed by the chairman of the board for children and youth programmes, Poul Schlüter, who would later become a Conservative prime minister. In an official statement to a meeting of DR’s board of directors he wrote, on behalf of the department, that children should be introduced to the same range of issues as adults, they should learn that adults were not always right, and be encouraged to make up their own mind, independent of adults. It was, Schlüter noted, important that a pluralism of opinions be represented among the department’s staff, and that it be able to deliver “young and modern” programmes, even if these were maybe a little too “modernist and advanced” for some of the board members33. Though Schlüter might not have agreed with the entire policy of the children and youth department, the statement shows a profound institutional openness at the highest level towards the ways in which anti-authoritarian and democratic ideas had been adapted at a lower level in DR.

  • 34 Nordvision also included broadcasters from Iceland and Finland, but it has been beyond the scope of (...)

19The Nordic corporation between broadcasters in Nordvision’s Subcommittee on Children and Youth Programmes was a forum which then further strengthened the radical democratisation agenda seen in Denmark, Sweden and Norway’s individual policies34. The subcommittee met every six months at changing locations within the five Nordic countries. Its members were the national heads of departments and subsections. In the subcommittee there was a strong focus on television’s potential for empowering children. Minutes from the meetings make several references to the 1969 Nordic Council symposium on Children and Culture, and the symposium’s idea of using media products to liberate and empower children flourished in the Norvision subcommittee.

  • 35 Minutes from Nordvision meeting in spring 1971 preserved in the archive of Norwegian Broadcasting C (...)

20One particular concern amongst the Nordic broadcasters was how to get better feedback from the child-viewers, in order to break down the “one-way” communication that television was often used for35. The participatory element of “68” is thus clearly visible here as the broadcasters did not want their audience to be passive recipients, rather they wanted to establish a dialogue with them. The subcommittee also discussed the issue of participation as an obligation that also meant being aware of how to cater for children of different ages, in different regions and different social conditions. This is in line with the heightened awareness of “post-colonial issues” in the wake of “68” as described by Ekman Jørgensen in the sense that the broadcasters’ were conscious of the differences between centre and periphery in a socio-cultural and geographical sense.

21In a report from 1971 the Nordvision subcommittee, the Nordic children’s television producers attributed this awareness to children’s needs as something particularly Nordic:

  • 36 Minutes from the Norvision subcommittee meeting in Imara, 18-19 November 1971. Report in the Norweg (...)

The Nordic countries” shared cultural background means that television for children and young people should support the child’s emotional development and thereby support their possibility for becoming an active and self-governed human being36.

22The quotation offers no further explanation of the argument for why the Nordic culture should be better to further a child-centered agenda. But along with Fritz Raben’s commentary cited in the introduction to this article, the report was part of a whole number of documents that talked about Scandinavian exceptionalism.

23In 1974 the Nordvision group agreed on a policy paper which they wanted to distribute to foreign producers of children’s programmes. This paper was prompted by the desire to incorporate more foreign production into the children’s schedule because these would give Nordic children an insight into the living conditions of children in other countries. However, the Nordic producers had problems finding what they saw as high quality programmes outside of the Nordic countries. The paper stated:

  • 37 Minutes from the Norvision subcommittee meeting in, Stockholm 1-4 October 1974. Report in the Norwe (...)

A shared cultural background has meant that the Nordic children and youth departments for the most part have a similar aim with their programmes. This aim is, primarily, to support children’s emotional and cognitive development in order for them to become active and independent humans. To fulfil these intentions it is important to show children the world in a manner that is as truthful as possible, to demonstrate all humans equal worth, but unequal living conditions and to show how all humans depend on others.37

  • 38 For this point see also an interview with Mogens Vemmer (head of the Children and Youth Department (...)

24From this statement it is clear that the Nordvision committee saw Nordic children’s television as being very different from that of the rest of the world38. It is also clear that the progressiveness they prided themselves on was linked to the ideas that had dominated the Children and Culture symposium. The child-centred, democratic agenda where children’s culture included issues about equality and emancipation was at the fore of the policy agenda. Children’s television was clearly seen as a means to make children independent and emancipated. However, good intentions are one thing – how was the child conceptualised in the actual productions?

Putting policy into practice

  • 39 On the links between the documentary-drama genre and emancipatory children’s culture see op cit. H. (...)
  • 40 Nina Christensen, Den danske billedbog 1950-1999: teori, analyse, historie, Frederiksberg: Roskilde (...)

25In terms of programmes the Nordic co-productions included a broad range of genres and themes. The “68” influence is visible in the orientation towards documentaries and particularly documentary-dramas, a genre which was favoured due to the possibilities it offered to inform children about wider social issues in an entertaining format39. This genre was also part of a broader change in aesthetics in children’s media which correlated with the influence of “68”40. The co-produced programmes To be 12 years old and the sequel To be 12 years old in 1972 are examples of how the Nordvision committee used co-produced documentary-drama to inform children about the lives of their contemporaries in other Nordic countries. The content of these two productions was decided upon by the 12-year-old participants in order to further a child-driven agenda in broadcasting for children. The programmes thus sought to convey the children’s social milieu as well as their thoughts, dreams and world view. All the individual Nordic productions were discussed in a final programme, in which all the children who had made the same kind of production in the other Nordic countries participated. There are no sources regarding the reception of the programme, but the production set-up clearly sketched out an intention of including children in the entire production process.

  • 41 Danish National Archives, Danish Broadcasting Corporation, 1187, 1926-1987 Udsendelser (35), Super (...)

26Another cluster of national projects that ran parallel in all five Nordic countries and was discussed in Nordvision’s subcommittee, were initiatives in which children were given Super 8mm cameras41. The aims of these projects were to give “the means of production” back to children themselves and democratise television as a medium while learning more about the interests of children and young people.

  • 42 Unfortunately no films have survived
  • 43 Danish National Archives, Danish Broadcasting Corporation, 1187, 1926-1987 Udsendelser (35), Super (...)
  • 44 Reply (23 March 1973) to enquiry about the Super8mm project from the British Independent Broadcasti (...)

27The Danish project, Super8mm, is the only one to have well-preserved sources about the production42. In the first two years alone, (1970-1972) this project facilitated the production of more than 550 films produced by children and young people (the estimated runtime was about 5min). The children’s department had bought over 30 cameras and 4-5 rolls of film per project, which were then sent to children all around Denmark43. Whether a child could borrow a camera depended on their ideas for a film. In a summary report from 1973, we can see that children were encouraged to send in films either based on their own ideas, or to be used in a specific children’s nature programme44. Many applications have been preserved, and judging from their often very brief nature (some were as brief as the back of a postcard), the department did not demand much of the children before they lent them a camera.

  • 45 Op.cit.
  • 46 Op cit.

28In 1973, Sven Sprogøe, the Super8mm’s project manager at DR wrote a report in which he complained that children often produced films in which they tried to replicate productions for adults. He and the other producers involved in the project disliked this because they did not believe that it was a helpful experience for anyone apart from the children making the film. “Tarzan produced by children rarely looked like Tarzan the movie”, Sprogøe wrote, and in DR there was much scepticism about the extent to which regular child viewers liked to watch these amateur productions45. What the DR employees had hoped for was that children would tell stories about their everyday lives and own experiences, something which only happened occasionally46. However, even if the films did not comply with the wishes of the department one third of all the films made 1970-72 were broadcasted (one third were rejected because of their poor quality with regards to the content and the last third was ruined because of under/over exposure or other technical failures). Overall the project can be seen as a large institutional interest in democratising the medium and having children take active part in the production.

29The Nordvision committee also initiated co-production of live action drama. Amongst these were the high profile documentary-drama series Secret Summer (starring a very young Lars von Trier). Unlike many other programmes from this period, Secret Summer has been preserved in its entirety47. In it the boy Lars (about 11 or 12 years old) who is lonely, misunderstood by his friends, and badly treated by his parents (the film is seen from Lars’ point of view). His parents are poor and cannot afford to go on vacation during the summer holidays, so he runs away and befriends a Swedish girl, and the two of them spend the summer together. The social realistic drama gives viewers an insight into the lives, and particularly the feelings of children. It carefully makes “the private political” by exploring and showing the private and difficult emotions of the main characters, and it provided child viewers with ways to liberate themselves from adult authority by finding comfort in supportive peer-culture.

  • 48 Minutes from the Norvision subcommittee meeting in Reykjavik 25-29 October 1971, p. 13. Report in t (...)

30Finally, producing real news for children was viewed as central to making children’s television an outlet which children would take seriously. The minutes from a 1971 Nordvision meeting states that the committee members saw an urgent need for news programmes made especially for children, not as a substitute for adult news, but as a scaffold which would make children better equipped to understand such programmes48. The need was perceived to exist, on the one hand, because news for children would further acknowledge that children were people in their own right, with their own specific needs, and, on the other hand, because it would support children’s capability to stand up for themselves and express their own need when taking part in politics in general.

Concluding remarks

31The children’s departments in the Scandinavian broadcasting corporations were clearly marked by what Ekman Jørgensen has described as the wider impact of “68”. The producers of programmes for children and youth worked extensively for a democratisation of children’s television. This agenda was visible in both policies and practices. The desire for television to act as children’s spokesperson shows a genuine interest in taking children’s wishes seriously and presenting them as legitimate on the same levels as those of adults. The practices of collecting data on young viewers by asking them want they wanted to see, and lending them cameras to produce their own films, guided these policies.

32The new and radical ideas about the aims and content of children’s culture expressed by Ambjörnsson in 1968, and later consolidated in the 10 theses from the Nordic Council’s symposium on Children and Culture in 1969 evidently had an impact on the individual broadcasting corporations. But the close-knit collaboration within the Nordic broadcasting union, Nordvision, strengthened the articulation of “68” ideas amongst the national broadcasters. It was a venue where thoughts about television as a possible medium for children’s emancipation were negotiated and reworked into trans-Nordic productions or parallel productions in the five countries. The possibility to easily co-produce and exchange programmes within Nordvision meant that the schedules of the Scandinavian broadcasters could be filled with many programmes that supported the same kinds of ideas about what type of media content children needed. Thus, though Fritz Raben’s comment quoted in the introduction of this essay about Scandinavian exceptionalism and superiority might be argued to have been the outcome of the Nordvision “echo chamber”, nevertheless it was an echo chamber in which policies and production practices tried to include children’s voices.

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Notes

1 Fritz Raben, Prix Jeunesse International 1972: Nogle betragtninger om børne- og ungdomsfjernsyn globalt set”, BIXEN Tidsskrift for børnelitteratur. (4) 1972, p. 34-39. All translations are my own unless otherwise stated. Translations have been done with a view to remain true to the original wording.

2 It is unclear from Raben’s account if he by Scandinavia means Denmark, Sweden and Norway or all of the five Nordic Countries (also including Finland and Iceland). In this article, I systematically use “Scandinavia” as a reference to Denmark, Sweden and Norway and the “the Nordic countries” when I talk about all five. However, in sources and the historiography these two terms are sometimes used interchangeably and a complete and systematic application of the two terms in both the analysis, historiography and quotes from sources is thus not possible.

3 Helle Strandgaard Jensen, “Prix Jeunesse and the Negotiation of Citizenship in Children’s Television”, Journal for the History of Childhood and Youth. Forthcoming 2018. David Kleeman, Advocates for Excellence: Engaging the Industry, The Children's Television Community, New York, Routledge, 2007, p. 259-275.

4 In 1972 43 broadcasting companies from 32 different countries participated in Prix Jeunesse. In total 74 programs were entered for the competition.

5 Op cit. F. Raben, Prix Jeunesse International, p. 35.

6 Ibid. p. 38.

7 Existing historiography on broadcasting history in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden is very diverse. In this article I have attempted to include all three in the main body of the analysis, but historiographical restrictions sometimes means that I focus on one, two, or three countries regarding a single aspect. I have, in particular, drawn on Ingegerd Rydin, Barnens röster: Program för barn i Sveriges radio och television 1925-1999. Stockholm: Etermedierne i Sverie 2000 (in the case of Sweden), Eva Bakøy, Med fjernsynet I barnets tjeneste: NRK-fjernsynets programvirksomhet for barn på 60- og 70-tallet, Oslo, Unipubforlag, 1999 (in the case of Norway) and Christa Lykke Christensen, ”Børne- og ungdoms-tv” in Stig Hjarvard, Dansk Tv’s Historie, Frederiksberg: Samfundslitteratur, 2006, p. 65-105.

8 Terry H Anderson, “1968: The American and Scandinavian experiences”, Scandinavian Journal of History, 33(4), 2008, p. 491-499.

9 Tora Korsvold had described how the new left’s criticism of welfare state institutions to some extend converged with changes happening within the system. Tora Korsvold, Barn og barndom i velferdsstatens småbarnspolitikk. Oslo: universitetsforlaget, 2008. See also Mary Hilson, The Nordic Model: Scandinavia since 1945, London: Reaction Books, 2008.

10 On this discussion see, Anette Warring, “Around 1968–Danish Historiography”, Scandinavian Journal of History, 33(4), 2008, p. 353-365.

11 Tor Egil Førlander, “Introduction to the Special Issue on 1968”, Scandinavian Journal of History, 33(4), 2008, p. 319.

12 Op.cit.Førlander, Introduction”, 2008, p. 319.

13 Henrik Nissen, Landet blev by. Danmarks historien vol. 14, Copenhagen: Politiken/Gyldendal, 2004/5, p. 362.

14 Op.cit. Førland, “Introduction,” 2008, p. 317.

15 Ibid. p. 317.

16 Thomas Ekman Jørgensen, “The Scandinavian 1968 in a European perspective”, Scandinavian Journal of History, 33(4), 2008, p. 335.

17 The anthology 1968 dengang og nu [1968 then and now] edited by Morten Bendix Andersen and Niklas Olsen published by Museum Tusculanums Forlag in 2004 is a clear expression of this tradition. It includes essays on the New Left, feminism, art, pedagogy, environmental groups and sexuality, all grouped together under the label “68” though the individual essays includes events from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s.

18 Helle Strandgaard Jensen, From Superman to Social Realism: Children’s Media and Scandinavian Childhood, Amsterdam, John Benjamins Publishing Press, 2017.

19 Op. Cit. T. E. Jørgensen, “The Scandinavian 1968”, 2008.

20 Ib Bondebjerg, “Opbruddet fra monopolkulturen. En institutions-og programhistorisk analyse af dansk tv,” Sekvens-Filmvidenskabelig Årbog, 1989, p. 91-136.

21 Gunilla Ambjörnsson, Skräpkultur åt barnen, Stockholm: Bonniers, 1968. Preface.

22 Op.cit., H. S. Jensen, From Superman to Social Realism, 2017, p. 81.

23 The official inter-governmental body for co-operation in the Nordic Region.

24 “Children’s culture” (barnkultur/børnekultur) was a unifying term for all kinds of media products made for children, which arose out of these debates. In the course of 1968-69 it shifted meaning and began to signify children’s activities and ways-of-living more broadly.

25 For a detailed description of the disagreement between the keynote, Åse Gruda Skard, and the new generation of debaters see Helle Strandgaard Jensen, “Parent-Pressure: A History of Parents as Co-consumers of Children’s Media”, Nordicom Review, 37(1), 2016, p. 29-42.

26 Barn og kultur: Nordisk kulturkommisjons symposium, Hässelby slott 29.11-1.12.69. Unpublished symposium report from the archive of Norsk barnboksinstitutt, 1969, p. 6.

27 Op cit. H. S. Jensen, From Superman to Social Realism, 2017.

28 Ibid.

29 Gunilla Ambjörnsson, “Anteckninger från den stora entusiasmens tid”, in Gunilla Ambjörnsson (red.), Tidsandans krumbukter, Nora: Nya Doxa 2007, p.82

30 Op cit. I. Rydin, Barnens röster, 2000, p. 193.

31 Ibid. p. 192.

32 Helle Strandgaard Jensen, “TV as Children's Spokesman: Conflicting notions of Children and Childhood in Danish Children's Television around 1968”, The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, 6(1), 2013, p. 105-128.

33 Attachment #85, meeting w. Board of directors, Danmarks Radio, November 1972 (prior attachment #113 at program committee meeting October 24, 1972). Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s archive in the National Archives, Denmark.

34 Nordvision also included broadcasters from Iceland and Finland, but it has been beyond the scope of this article to analyze the policies formulated at a national level in these countries.

35 Minutes from Nordvision meeting in spring 1971 preserved in the archive of Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, Norwegian National Archives, reference number RA/S-4162/F/ff/L0009/0001.

36 Minutes from the Norvision subcommittee meeting in Imara, 18-19 November 1971. Report in the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s archive at the National Archives, Norway, reference #RA/S-4162/F/Ff/L0009/0001

37 Minutes from the Norvision subcommittee meeting in, Stockholm 1-4 October 1974. Report in the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s archive at the National Archives, Norway, reference # RA/S-48886/F/Fb/L0006

38 For this point see also an interview with Mogens Vemmer (head of the Children and Youth Department at Danish Broadcasting Corporation) in Cornelius “Ytringsfriheden har ingen aldersgrænse”, Frederiksborg Amts Avis. Sunday August 30, 1973.

39 On the links between the documentary-drama genre and emancipatory children’s culture see op cit. H. S. Jensen TV as children’s spokesman, 2013.

40 Nina Christensen, Den danske billedbog 1950-1999: teori, analyse, historie, Frederiksberg: Roskilde Universitetsforlag, 2003; Torben Weinreich, Den socialistiske børnebog, Frederiksberg: Roskilde Universitetsforlag, 2015; Tone Birkeland, Gunvor Risa, Karin Beate Vold, Norsk Barenlitteraturhistorie, Oslo, Det Norske Samlaget, 2. ed, 2005.

41 Danish National Archives, Danish Broadcasting Corporation, 1187, 1926-1987 Udsendelser (35), Super 8mm 1970-1972.

42 Unfortunately no films have survived

43 Danish National Archives, Danish Broadcasting Corporation, 1187, 1926-1987 Udsendelser (35), Super 8mm 1970-1972.

44 Reply (23 March 1973) to enquiry about the Super8mm project from the British Independent Broadcasting Authority. Danish National Archives, Danish Broadcasting Corporation, 1187, 1926-1987 Udsendelser (35), Super 8mm 1970-1972. The cameras could not record any sound which meant that sound was either produced on a second recording device or the children who had produced the films (especially the nature films) phoned in to the television studio and commented on the film during the live broadcast.

45 Op.cit.

46 Op cit.

47 See the Danish Broadcasting Corporations online archive, Bonaza: https://www.dr.dk/bonanza/serie/467/hemmelig-sommer (accessed 11 January 2018)

48 Minutes from the Norvision subcommittee meeting in Reykjavik 25-29 October 1971, p. 13. Report in the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s archive at the National Archives, Norway, Reference # RA/S-4885/F/Fa/L0001.

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Référence électronique

Helle Strandgaard Jensen, « Scandinavian children’s television in the 1970s: an institutionalisation of ‘68’? », Strenæ [En ligne], 13 | 2018, mis en ligne le 15 mai 2018, consulté le 20 juin 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/1845 ; DOI : 10.4000/strenae.1845

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Auteur

Helle Strandgaard Jensen

Aarhus University
History and Classical Studies
Jens Chr. Skovs vej 5,
8000 Aarhus – DK

Helle Strandgaard Jensen received her PhD from the European University Institute in 2013. She has previously been employed at the Department of Media, Cognition, and Communication at University of Copenhagen and held a number of visiting fellowships in the US and UK. Her research focuses on contemporary childhood and media history in Scandinavia, Western Europe and the US after 1945. She combines historical methods with theoretical approaches from cultural studies and media studies. One part of her research has media productions as the historical object of study. The other looks at how uses of digital media – in particular digital archives, sources, and research tools – influence the discipline of history. Jensen is the author of From Superman to Social Realism: Children’s Media and Scandinavian Childhood (2017) as well as many of articles and book chapters on childhood history, children’s media culture, and digital archives’ impact on historiography. She currently works on a project financed by the Danish Research Council and the European Commissions’ Marie Curie actions about the American children’s programme Sesame Street and its reception and demarcation in the US, UK, Italy, Scandinavia and Germany throughout the 1970s. A second project investigates digital archives as historiographical agents by looking at the production, content, and use of these from the perspective of professional historians.

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