Recently uncovered footage, long buried in East German archives, confirms that television’s first revolution occurred under the Third Reich. From 1935 to 1944, Berlin studios churned out the world’s first regular TV programming, replete with the evening news, street interviews, sports coverage, racial programs, and interviews with NS officials. Select audiences, gathered in television parlours across Germany, numbered in the thousands; plans to create a mass viewing public, through the distribution of 10,000 people’s television sets, were upended by World War Two. German technicians achieved remarkable breakthroughs in televising live events, including near instantaneous broadcasts of the 1936 Olympic Games. The surviving footage – 285 rolls have been found so far offers an intriguing new window onto Hitler’s Germany. Television under the Swastika, drawing liberally from this footage, opens up a surprising chapter in media history.
Contrary to popular belief, it wasn`t the English or the American media that first created the concept of television `programming` as we know it today (what an appropriate term in retrospect) the honour in fact belongs to the NSDAP who in March 1935, began its national television service.
This was the first non-experimental public television service and it in fact took England another twenty one months to begin its service, which began on November 11th 1936. Given the fact that America television is now the fountain head of programming for the planet in terms of supply and the ideological inspiration for the form and content of television programming, it is perhaps surprising to hear it took the Americans another two years before they began broadcasting on a daily commercial basis in 1939.