Book Presentation and Discussion: Red Tape. Radio and Politics in Czechoslovakia, 1945-1969

Venue: Erika-Weinzierl-Saal, Main Building of the University of Vienna, Universitätsring 1, 1010 Wien, Austria

Mikuláš Pešta, Elisabeth Röhrlich, Agáta Šústová Drelová and Philipp Ther will comment on Rosamund Johnston's new book. The discussion will be led by Agata Zysiak.

In socialist Eastern Europe, radio simultaneously produced state power and created the conditions for it to be challenged. As the dominant form of media in Czechoslovakia from 1945 until 1969, Communist officials, broadcast journalists, and audiences used radio technologies and institutions to negotiate questions of citizenship and rights. In Red Tape, Johnston reconstructs the relationship between radio reporters and the listeners who liked and trusted them while recognizing that they produced both propaganda and entertainment. By focusing on listeners' feedback, captured in thousands of pieces of fan mail, she reveals how a non-democratic society established, stabilized, and reproduced itself. Reflecting upon how radio might turn up the volume on previously silenced aspects of the Cold War, panelists will also discuss what lessons socialist radio might hold for those seeking to understand current fake news debates, and the Facebook and X politics of today.

Rosamund Johnston is a postdoctoral researcher at RECET. She is the author of Red Tape: Radio and Politics in Czechoslovakia, 1945-1969, published by Stanford University Press. She also co-authored one book of public history, Havel in America: Interviews with American Intellectuals, Politicians, and Artists, released by Czech publisher Host in 2019. Her work has appeared in Central European History, the Journal of Cold War Studies, East Central Europe, Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Scottish newspaper The National, and on public broadcaster Czech Radio. She is currently researching the global history of Czechoslovakia between 1954 and 1994 through its arms trade.