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Sonic traces of VE Day 1945: Sweden

Tuesday 8 May 1945, is widely known as Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Although the Second World War officially came to an end, not all Europeans celebrated the date. 8 May was experienced differently by people all over Europe. Most of them coped with everyday problems depending on the various situations they lived in: as a soldier of the German Wehrmacht or the Allied troops, as a housewife preparing a meal or living in an emergency shelter, as a survivor of the Holocaust in one of the liberated concentration camps or as a perpetrator who stood accused. Without personal documents we can only imagine what might have shaped people’s experiences of this day. But as far media coverage has been preserved, we can at least analyse what these people were told by the media of the time: reports by newspapers and the radio, news by broadsheets and loudspeakers that marked the end of the war. Of course, facts about the acceptance of the unconditional surrender of Germany’s armed forces by the Allies were inextricably interwoven with interpretations of what this event should mean for the contemporary readers, listeners and bystanders.

This is the second of three blog entries about the sonic traces of May 1945 in Britain, Germany and Sweden (authors Hugh Chignell, Hans-Ulrich Wagner and Marie Cronqvist) and the messages given by radio to the people who got in contact with them. They are radio sources from a victor, a loser, and a neutral. We consider such documents as relics of communicative processes in the past. This means that we consider them sources of past speaking and writing while looking for traces of past listening and reading historians lack so often.

In neutral Sweden, the liberation of “Norden” was an overarching theme on radio from 7 to 9 May 1945 – in broadcast speeches, radio reports and news bulletins. ”It feels like a long nightmare has finally released its grip and we can breathe again”, said prime minister Per Albin Hansson in his first radio speech shortly after the German surrender on 7 May. “Even if we Swedes have not been directly involved in the battle, we still realize what this means for our country and our people.” He emphasized the unyielding Nordic spirit and the joy that the Swedish people felt about their brothers and neighbours. That Sweden has managed to keep neutral and successfully avoid the lines of battle was not, Hansson stressed, a matter to boast about but instead a strike of good luck to be humbly grateful for.

Per Albin Hansson, radio speech 7 May, 1945 (source: Sveriges Radio)

Among the perhaps most emotional audio clips that can be found in the audio archive are a couple of recordings focusing merely on city sounds from Kungsgatan in Stockholm on the same day, 7 of May. In one of them, reporter Gunnar Helén stood on the roof of a garbage truck describing to the listener the spectacular visual scene before him: waving hands and flags, traffic jam, and confetti, office papers and paper streamers thrown from the windows. On the recording we hear people cheering, and an incessant sounding of car horns and laughter. After a while, someone takes up singing the Danish national anthem and others quickly join in. Then the singing crowd gets bigger continuing with the Norwegian and finally the Swedish anthems. Happy people on the street, both Danes, Norwegians and Swedes, are interviewed.

Gunnar Helén reporting from the festivities at Kungsgatan in Stockholm 7 May, 1945 (source: Sveriges Radio)

  Iconic newsreel from Kungsgatan, Stockholm (source: Svenska filminstitutet, SVT/SMDB, retrieved from Stockholmskällan)

The Nordic theme was followed up on 8 May, when Hansson spoke again to cheering crowds in the central park Vasaparken in Stockholm. He was joined by Norwegian Labour party politician Lars Evensen, a member of the resistance movement (Hjemmefronten) and during the war in exile working at the Norwegian legation in Stockholm. “You can say that Norden has never been more alive with the Swedes,” Hansson stated, “than during these last few years. With every fibre in our body, we have felt with our brothers and sisters in Norway and Denmark.”

Among the remaining audio clips is also a travel report from 9 May by legendary radio reporter and host Sven Jerring about a brief undercover visit to Copenhagen shortly before the German surrender. Jerring tells the listener about an accidental but fortunate meeting on the street with a Danish colleague, who travelled around with his radio equipment on a trailer. The two reporters joined forces, and in Jerring’s report, the whole anecdote serves as an illustration not only of the unity and cooperation between the Nordic countries. It also forcefully reproduced what Nick Couldry has called “the myth of the mediated centre”, putting broadcast radio in the centre of world events.

Sven Jerring’s travel report from Copenhagen 9 May, 1945 (source: Sveriges Radio)

/ Marie Cronqvist, Lund

May 7, 2020

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From the British members of EMHIS steering group

Since its launch in 2012, Bournemouth, and more recently, Aberystwyth universities have participated in EMHIS. Over the years we have attended and organised forums, co-authored journal articles, presented our work and enjoyed the friendship, hospitality and scholarship of our Swedish and German colleagues. Much of was paid for by the Swedish government’s STINT fund.

But now Britain has left the EU and there is a nationalist government in power. What that will mean practically time will tell but as the EMHIS British contingent we wanted to make a statement. 

We are deeply committed to our European project. We enormously value our Swedish and German friends and all of our European colleagues. We celebrate the transnational, progressive, diverse, feminist and experimental project that is Entangled Media Histories and we will remain in Europe – in Lund, in Hamburg and absolutely opposed to the petty minded nationalism of Brexit. 

Thank you EMHIS for welcoming us into your entangled European home and together lets prove that British scholars are better off in Europe than outside!

Hugh Chignell, Jamie Medhurst and Kristin Skoog

London calling post Brexit.
February 4, 2020

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“Entangled Media Histories” special issue now in print

We are really happy that all articles in the EMHIS special issue of Media History (Routledge, Taylor & Francis, vol 26, no 1, 2020) is now available in print. This is a joint venture that has been under way since our “Tracing entanglements in media history” conference at Lund University, Sweden, in May 2017, where most articles were once presented as papers. It has been lovely to see them all taking shape over the course of the peer review process during the last two years. Big thanks to all anonymous peer reviewers, whose comments and suggestions have made the texts better, and most of all to all authors for their wonderful input and their patience along the way! 

Marie, Christoph & Hugh (special issue editors)

January 20, 2020

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Handbook chapter on media after 1945 out: A report of EMHIS colleagues’ joint writing

What seems to be a matter of course within academia today, is far from being easily done. I talk about the endeavour of jointly writing a handbook chapter as a five-colleague team located in four different cities Hamburg, Lund, Bournemouth and Munich. I checked on my computer that I brought in the idea to contribute to the then planned ‘Handbook of European Communication History’ quite a long time ago, in mid-2013. As an immediate result of this initiative I was elected lead author. Along with four EMHIS colleagues, Marie Cronqvist, Kristin Skoog, Hugh Chignell, and Christoph Hilgert, we successfully applied a proposal on ‘Media after 1945: Continuities and New Beginnings’. Later on, we worked out the chapter, worked in reviewers’ occasionally contrastive recommendations and at the end proof-read what was sent to us by Wiley Blackwell several times. We did this, because up to now, we consider it a great opportunity to write about entangled media history.

How to write a 9.000 word-text on a period of transition in an entangled way? For us, it was clear that we do not only put together three case studies – one written from the perspective of a victorious country (UK), one from the perspective of a defeated state (Germany divided into four occupation zones), and one from the perspective of an officially neutral state during World War II (Sweden). In an amount of emails, Skype conferences and Google docs documents a new structure emerged. We decided on dealing with ‘the media landscape in Europe at the end of WW II’ (covering print media, radio, film and TV plans), with the question of ‘established’ and/or ‘new orders’ which means with media policy and media systems, and with – what we called – ‘key topics in the immediate post-war period’, i.e. how the media after 1945 dealt with everyday problems, the visions of the future, and the management of national identity. Whenever it was possible we also worked in information from other countries, especially from South and East Europe, supported by our media history colleagues Alec Badenoch, Gloria García González, Morten Michelsen, and Darina Volf.

Of course, these few blog sentences invite you to read about ‘the continuities and new beginnings’ the team found out and what we ‘entangled’ so far. Maybe you are curious to know more about Sweden’s idea of ‘folkhemmet’ which means ‘the people’s home’ and the future of a welfare society; or to read more about the transition when the nation-wide Nazi-Newspaper ‘Völkischer Beobachter’ was published until 24 April 1945 and the very first new German newspaper under control of the Military Government, the ‘Aachener Nachrichten’, which was out on 24 January 1945; or to recognise problems of the female staff at the BBC, of women in a male dominated profession. As a matter of course, all national examples like these are embedded in a transnational context.

Finally, worth mentioning might be that we decided that several developments didn’t start on 8 May 1945, the ‘Victory in Europe’ (VE) Day, but already in 1943/44. And of course, we state that transformation processes didn’t come to an end in 1947/48. On the contrary, Europe became more and more shaped by two ‘blocs’ and a so-called ‘Cold War’, also on air – but this is described by other colleagues in the following chapter of the handbook.

Hans-Ulrich Wagner, Hamburg

 

Hans-Ulrich Wagner, Hugh Chignell, Marie Cronqvist, Christoph Hilgert, Kristin Skoog: Media after 1945: Continuities and New Beginnings. In: Klaus Arnold, Paschal Preston, Susanne Kinnebrock (Eds.): The Handbook of European Communication History. London: Wiley 2020, 189-204.

 

December 17, 2019

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The International Perspective on a Radio Centenary, Nov 6–8, 2019

Report from a conference at the Institute of Sound and Vision, Hilversum, Netherlands.

This was probably one of the first such events to mark the hundredth anniversary of radio.  Anya Luscombe and her colleagues from the University of Utrecht had assembled a number of well known radio specialists incuding a good friend of EMHIS, Michele Hilmes.

The EMHIS representation at the event included Hans-Ulrich Wagner and Alec Badenoch. Apart from some very interesting papers we were shown some of the artefacts in the extraordinary archives.  The photograph shows Michele Hilmes and some of the machines used for digitising audio tape.

I found the conference particularly useful because of my interest in radio drama (an interest I share with Hans-Ulrich of course).  In Hilversum I met Philomeen Lelievedt from the University of Utrecht who proved to be an extremely useful contact for future research.  

Hugh Chignell

Bournemouth University

December 8, 2019

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Report from the ECREA Radio Research conference in Siena, 19–21 September, 2019

The Radio Research Section of ECREA held their 6th conference at the Department of Social, Political and Cognitive Sciences of the University of Siena, Italy, from 19-21st September 2019. The theme was Radio as a Social/Convivial Media: community, participation, public values in the platform society.

The conference gathered together scholars and practitioners that are currently exploring the complex entanglement between radio/audio/digital media and society. The aim was to situate radio studies within the broader contemporary media ecosystem and created a dialogue with Internet Studies, Platform studies, Social Media studies, critical political economy of the media, Media History, digital media management, Cultural Studies, production studies, ethnography, sound studies, and social sciences.

Keynote by Prof David Hendy

170 delegates from 35 countries attended, hearing keynotes from Elena Razlogova, Christina Dunbar-Hester, David Hendy, David Fernández Quijada, Enrico Menduni and Caroline Mitchell. EMHIS was well represented in panels on advertising, public radio, radio communities and talk radio cultures. Hans-Ulrich Wagner reflected on the challenges of radio cultures in times of media change, Gloria Khamkar spoke about female empowerment in ethnic minority community radio and Nelson Ribeiro discussed how advertising played a significant role on the establishment of the first newsrooms in the Portuguese commercial broadcasters. Kathryn McDonald’s paper focussed on suicidal callers to live UK radio phone- in shows and she was honoured to be awarded the first Guy Starkey Prize for most original presentation. Guy was a former Chair of the section and a key figure in connecting European and global radio scholars.

Siena was a beautiful place to visit. We were lucky enough to enjoy the September sunshine and were treated to an evening tour to the hillside for our social dinner in the magnificent cloister of La Certosa di Pontignano – a Carthusian monastery and church. This was a great chance to connect from scholars and practitioners with so many different approaches – and to reconnect with our EMHIS colleagues once again.

 

Kathryn McDonald

October 22, 2019

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Report from ECREA Communication History Section Workshop in Vienna, Sept 11–13, 2019

The bi-annual workshop of the ECREA Communication History Section titled ‘Jeopardizing Democracy throughout History: Media as Accomplice, Adversary or Amplifier of Populist and Radical Politics’ was held this year on September 11-13, 2019, at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. Its aim was to shed light on political communication that fosters populist and radical politics in a historical perspective across Europe and beyond. Following the opening keynotes by Ruth Wodak on the concept of ‘fake news’ over time, and by Paolo Gerbaudo on social media and the cyberplebeian public sphere, the workshop featured papers discussing such diverse topics as the origins of populist print in Venice in the early 16th century (Juraj Kittler), pro-Soviet and anti-Soviet propaganda of the extreme right in Hungary during World War II (Balázs Sipos), media governance and democracy in South Korea (Hanna Suh), the remembering of the Finnish Civil War in military magazines (Merja Ellefson), or the use of radio and supercomputing in the preservation of Swiss democracy (Ely Lüthi).

Two EMHIS members were present at the workshop and presented their latest research. NELSON RIBEIRO’s paper ‘Using History to Exclude the ‘Other’: Nationalistic and Xenophobic Discourses in Salazar’s Regime’ explored how an idealized version of the past was central to the regime’s rhetoric, along with the production of media events that ensured constant visibility to its leader and high officials on both newspapers’ and radio news bulletins. These events echoed Salazar’s nationalistic and colonial discourse and contributed to the dissemination of his main propaganda line according to which his chief mission was to make Portugal a great nation again. In his own words, this implied going back to the traditional values of Portugueseness, and thus excluding those who originated from different cultural backgrounds.

STEPHANIE SEUL’s paper ‘The Woman War Correspondent as Accomplice of Militarism? The Charges of Austrian Satirist Karl Kraus Against Photojournalist Alice Schalek During World War I’ analysed the conflict between two prominent Viennese journalists and writers. Kraus ferociously and publicly denounced Schalek’s alleged warmongering reporting, accusing her of being the embodiment of a jingoistic, militarist, and thrill-seeking war correspondent. That Schalek is still remembered today is largely due to Kraus’ devastating judgment – he cast her as an extremely negative character in his famous anti-war drama The Last Days of Mankind. However, a closer look at Kraus’ personal attacks on Schalek also reveals his extreme misogynism. His condemnation of Schalek has thus to be seen less as a critique of war reporters spreading militarism, but rather as a denunciation of her being an intellectual woman and a war reporter.

Vienna presented itself from its most beautiful side with lots of sunshine and warm temperatures. The splendid historical buildings and parks are reminiscent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the beautiful building of the Austrian Academy of Sciences provided a perfect setting for the ECREA Communication History Section workshop.

As the Section Management Team announced, the next workshop will be held in 2021 at the University of Luxembourg on the theme of ‘Digital Media History’.

 

STEPHANIE SEUL

September 23, 2019

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Workshop on citizen journalism in Mumbai

EMHIS network’s Dr Gloria Khamkar recently conducted a Citizen Journalism workshop in Mumbai, India with the Bournemouth University’s Charity Impact funding scheme. Through this funding, Gloria has initiated a collaboration with an Indian charity ‘Committed Action for Relief and Education’ (CARE). CARE’s mission is to bring people, their ideas and knowledge together and provide a platform especially to the underprivileged communities.


 

The aim of the workshop was to introduce the budding Social Workers to the basics of citizen journalism for widening community involvement and audience engagement. It is particularly relevant and important in the current changing face of Indian mainstream media, which seems to be occupied covering politics and other topics, than addressing grassroots issues of the ordinary citizens of India.

Total 20 Social Work students and para-professionals participated in the workshop, despite the heavy rains in Mumbai on the day. Gloria Khamkar, the guest speaker & senior journalist Mr Mandar Phanse, and Mr Shrinivas Sawant from CARE contributed in the workshop. After informative sessions, the participants co-created and co-produced citizen journalism audio-visual stories.

At the end of the workshop, the participants gave feedback on the workshop; they mentioned that they felt confident and would like to explore more about the Citizen Journalism platform. The feedback-evaluation of the workshop done by the participants also demonstrated the continuous need for such educational and professional training activities.

This workshop has enabled Gloria to establish a collaboration with the Indian charity CARE on a long-term basis. Good job, Gloria!

August 26, 2019

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The British Library – an update

EMHIS members with an interest in British media often need to use the national library of the United Kingdom based near St. Pancras station in London.

For some media historians, like me, it is the most important media archive but it is always changing and keeping up to date is quite a challenge.

I recently spent some time with one of the most experienced curators at the BL and learned a lot which might interest EMHIS colleagues. 

The BBC Transcription Service provided edited recordings of radio programmes for BBC operations around the world.  This is a huge and largely unknown collection of recorded sound containing some critically important recordings mainly from the 1950s onwards.  The BL has an almost complete Transcription Service collection and this has now been digitised, amounting to almost 10 terabytes of data.  It will take a while for a spreadsheet of the file names to be produced but this could be an important new resource for some of us.

All BBC radio newscripts have now been digitised.  That includes several different new bulletins for every day I assume from the late 1920s. Some of these will be put onto the BBC Genome, probably one news script per day. This is another extremely important resource for entangled media historians allowing us to read the news reports as they would have been heard in the last century. 

If I find out any more I will let you know and do contact me if you want more information.

Hugh

June 12, 2019

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Report from EMHIS VIII in Gregynog, Wales, 14–16 May

I had the chance to attend, along members of the network, the EMHIS Forum VIII at Gregynog Hall, in Wales, on 14-16 May 2019. The event, organised by Jamie Medhurst (Aberystwyth University) in collaboration with the EMHIS coordinator Marie Cronqvist (Lund University), saw media scholars from many countries gathering in the gorgeous mansion (and its friendly ghost), whether they have been working with EMHIS for a long time or were, like me, newcomers. It has been a true pleasure, as a young researcher, to attend this event, as I have been following closely its activities for a while.

Keynote by Prof Alec Badenoch

The theme of this Forum was ‘challenges’ and our keynote speaker, Alec Badenoch (Utrecht/Amsterdam), offered a fantastic talk based on his own experience with digital projects, entitled ‘Breakfast at Milliways: a hitchhiker’s reflections on digital projects and the art of the (im)possible’. I think it is safe to say that this keynote was widely enjoyed by the audience, and that it lead to many discussions throughout the event. On the last day of the event, all members discussed their own uses of digital sources, tools and databases. As each of us relies on them differently, this ‘roundtable’ was ideal to share resources and useful links.

The Forum was also an opportunity for the participants to exchange about their own challenges, by bringing to the table a problem they were facing in their work. Problems linked to funding, methodology, or even to a specific source, were all discussed openly. This was, in my opinion, an excellent idea, as it provided support and enriching exchanges for everyone. As a PhD student, it was nice to talk about the problematic source I have been working on, but was not sure how to integrate into my thesis. Moreover, being able to discuss issues on an equal footing with more experienced historians was rather enriching.

Short research presentations, second day
Round table on digital tools in research and teaching

Another positive aspect of the event was the wonderful location. Gregynog Hall is a gorgeous building, located in the breathtaking Welsh countryside, which provided the perfect setting for an event favouring networking and exchanges for media historians. I truly appreciated the experience and I am glad to have seen familiar faces from last year’s Summer School on Radio History, as well as many new ones. Hopefully, I will have to attend many more of these events in the future.

Richard Legay, C²DH, University of Luxembourg

May 22, 2019

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EMHIS VIII coming up on 14–16 May

This week, the EMHIS network members are finishing up their presentations for the upcoming EMHIS Forum VIII, which will take place 14–16 of May, 2019, at the beautiful Gregynog Hall outside Newtown in Wales. A theme for our forum this time is “challenges”. We are grateful to our host, Jamie Medhurst at the University of Aberystwyth, who is the main organizer of the event!

On the first day, we will address challenges both in terms of  challenges for media history in general as well as coming challenges and new (ad)ventures for the EMHIS network. On the second day, each participant will present his or her own current challenge of a theoretical or methodological kind, bringing to the table a specific source or concrete problem.

A focus on the third day will be on digital media history and outreach. Our special guest and keynote this time will be Alexander Badenoch, who is an assistant professor in media and cultural studies at Utrecht University and also endowed professor of transnational media at Vrije Universieit Amsterdam. Alec is also part of the team from Transnational Radio Encounters (TRE) behind the award-winning streaming platform Radio Garden. We are delighted to have Alec with us – along with a number of new network members from Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Denmark and Lithuania!

EMHIS VIII will be our final network conference with funding from STINT’s Institutional Grant. We are ever so grateful to STINT for these first six years of funding, which has enabled no less than eight internal conferences, one international conference with an open call at Lund University 2016, plus a number of research exchanges between Lund, Hamburg and Bournemouth. The network is established and will move on. More information to come about this.

May 7, 2019

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Report from 7th ECREA conference in Lugano

Some of us EMHIS members came together in wonderful Lugano on 31 October to 3 November for the 7th European Communication Conference (ECC). The conference had the overall theme “Centres and Peripheries: Communication, Research, Translation” and some 1 500 scholars attended.

The Communication History section had a number of fine sessions. EMHIS members Sune Bechmann Pedersen, Marie Cronqvist, Hans-Ulrich Wagner and Philipp Seuferling were among the presenters. On Thursday, Sune presented his and Marie’s paper entitled “Foreign correspondents in the Cold War: Politics and everyday life of East German journalists abroad” in a journalism history panel chaired by Nelson Ribeiro. That same day, Hans-Ulrich also presented his paper “What happens with refugees’ stories and memories when they come to European immigration countries?” in a session panel on media and memory construction. On Friday, Marie presented her work on East German radio with the paper “Conflicting scripts and shortwave listeners: Radio Berlin International (RBI) and its Swedish audience in the autumn of 1989”. And on Saturday, Philipp joined a panel on Mobile Socialities under the Audience and Reception Studies section. His paper was “Media practices among historical refugees”.

Sune Bechmann Pedersen presented in a session on “Journalism, facts and manipulation”

In the Business meeting on Thursday, EMHIS member Nelson Ribeiro stepped down from his post as section chair for Communication History section and his successor Gabriele Balbi and his team entered stage. Gabriele was also the main host for the whole ECREA conference, and he and his associates along with other staff and students did a great job arranging the whole thing.

Christian Schwarzenegger, Nelson Ribeiro and Gabriele Balbi at the Communication History section business meeting.

Even though it was raining, at times even heavily, the conference was indeed a success and we had a very good time socializing with other media historians as well as our colleagues in other areas of media and communication research. And even through the clouds, lake Lugano was stunningly beautiful.

Marie

November 28, 2018

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