The Noise of the News: Spectral Analysis of Early Swedish Television News 1958 - 1978.
VIEW Journal Issue . 23 p. 24- 37
Looking back on the very first year of television in Sweden, the head of programming Henrik Hahr celebrated having brought the world into “the living room of the viewer”. From the emergence of Swedish public service television in 1956 and onwards, the medium would be lauded as a window to the world. Yet, what noises came through this window? Shifting focus away from the visual content of television, this article explores and emphasizes the sonic dimensions of early Swedish news broadcasting. In the middle of the 20th century, the look, and the sound of the news were taking shape across television stations around the world. In Sweden, public service broadcasting was partly influenced by the backdrop of the cold war, and demands were formulated on a style of television that would be distinctive from the American and Soviet alternatives. This was a matter of images and audio in equal proportions. Deciding what kind of sound was added to the previously mute newsreels was at the heart of televised journalism. With a media monopoly running two competing news shows, the Swedish case offers insight into the establishment and differentiation of public service television aesthetics in the post-war era. Prior research has investigated the institutions, infrastructures, and ideas which shaped early Swedish television, but the very signals remain unexplored. This article introduces new methods for studying aural aesthetics in audiovisual media. By conducting various types of spectral visualization on recorded television news from 1958 until 1978, this analysis traces the sonic profile of the Swedish public service. The aim is to provide historical knowledge of how the news sounded and which aural experiences were promoted within the realm of the welfare state media monopoly. However, by drawing attention to the prospect of audio signal processing as a method for cultural-historical research, the purpose is also to make a methodological contribution to television studies at large.