Hier Spricht Berlin: Radio, Space and Voice in Divided Berlin, 1961–1989
Nicholson, Esme Joan
Date: 26 September 2014
University of Exeter
PhD in Modern Languages
Radio waves pay no heed to political frontiers and they produce spaces that are entirely different from ideologically delineated spheres. Despite jamming campaigns, the broadcasting space of divided Berlin could not be contained by a border cast in concrete from August 1961. This study investigates how radio and radio voices define ...
Radio waves pay no heed to political frontiers and they produce spaces that are entirely different from ideologically delineated spheres. Despite jamming campaigns, the broadcasting space of divided Berlin could not be contained by a border cast in concrete from August 1961. This study investigates how radio and radio voices define space in divided Berlin between 1961 and 1989, asking how the space of the different political zones interacts with the mediated spaces of radio, and what kind of other spaces they create at this interface. It also probes to what extent radio subverts the political systems it infiltrates and how it impacts its listeners in both the East and the West. Based upon a chronological selection of radio programmes, features and reports from various broadcasters either side of the Wall, this study offers a different perspective on a city that has been examined at length by literature, film and the arts, namely via sound and the act of listening. Remarkably, listening does not feature as the primary approach for the majority of existing research on radio in Berlin; instead there is a widespread preference for written sources. This study’s theoretical approach is informed by Henri Lefebvre, Edward Soja and Jürgen Habermas in order to tackle the complex and unique spatial dimension of two political systems in one, albeit divided space, served by numerous radio stations from both systems. Following chapter one’s exposition on space, chapter two comprises the first case study and sets the scene: charting radio reactions to the building of the Wall, it explores the spaces and voices of news and how they map a fast transitioning space. Chapter three analyses a much more considered rendering of space in the guise of the media event that constitutes John F. Kennedy’s visit to Berlin in 1963. It illustrates how the day was very much an audio event, and how by the end of the visit, West Berlin was claimed not only as the United States’ Berlin, but as RIAS’ Berlin. Chapter four investigates spaces that are much more intimate: the discursive space produced by arguably Berlin’s most enduring radio voice of the period, Friedrich Luft. Chapter five, by contrast, considers voices that remain silent until the late eighties when a cross-border collaboration between the anti-establishment in both West and East Berlin creates a broadcasting space in which the burgeoning GDR opposition may let their voices be heard. The show, Radio Glasnost, opens up the GDR’s tightly controlled media space and achieves a degree of freedom of speech. The nature of divided Berlin’s spaces – whether media space, city space or political space – and the impact they have on the disembodied radio voice (and vice versa) has significant implications for mnemonic discourse. Consequently, this study concludes with detailed recommendations for further research on mediated memory that draws upon and develops the findings of this research.
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