What are the characteristics of the 60s

German television history in East and West

"Young people discuss current politics" with Willy Brandt (& copy Radio Bremen / Darchinger)


Discussions and politicization in the west



Even in the 1960s, the youth programs continued to search for a specific form of address. Ultimately, the intermediate position between children's television and an adult offer could not be canceled. Youth was and is a phase of transition in life. Accordingly, a variety of different offers arose.

The broad range of topics of the early youth programs arose from a certain uncertainty about what the core of youth television should now be, and corresponded to television's program mandate, anchored in the broadcasting laws, to provide "education, information and entertainment". In the second half of the 1950s, youth groups began to become politicized, to which television also reacted from the mid-1960s and also addressed young people with political offers. The change was already indicated in 1963, when Radio Bremen (RB) set up a regular discussion program with young people to talk to with the series "Youth discusses current politics", defined in the station's yearbook as a "monthly live broadcast, each with a publicist, three schoolchildren and three professionals from different cities in the Federal Republic take part "[1].

Meet and talk about it on ZDF

The series "Meeting Point - Our Youth Club" in the ZDF program, which had been in existence since 1963 and whose authors wanted to convey "how openly young people can and must interact with one another if their exchange of views is to have meaning," was religiously oriented. [2]. In an effort to reach all family members and stimulate discussions among themselves, ZDF also included topics that affected young people (such as the voting age of young people, career choice, musical culture) in existing series such as "This has to be talked about" [3 ].

Reporting on the student movement
Benno Ohnesorg dies from being shot by a police officer, along with Friederike Hausmann. (& copy picture-alliance / akg, Henschel)


The political controversies that were waged as part of the student movement about the authoritarian state, coping with the Nazi past and the lack of tolerance for plural forms of life had a strong impact on television. Here it was the reporting in the information programs that was present in the media, especially from 1967 - especially after the death of student Benno Ohnesorg at a demonstration against the Persian Shah in West Berlin - and that attracted the audience to the youth moved. The youth programs themselves were only indirectly affected, as they addressed these topics but did not bring them to the fore. So there was z. B. in the "Beat Club" from issue 35 a news block contributed by WDR, in which such events were discussed.

"Youth asks politicians" (WDR)

The Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR) brought - against the background of the student movement, which from 1968 also became a school movement with political demonstrations and protests - in the series "Jugend asks Politiker" with the participation of well-known television journalists such as Gerd Ruge and Friedrich Nowottny young viewers and celebrities Politicians in conversation with each other. It could be very lively at times. Occasionally there was a real scandal, for which the responsible editor Hans Gerd Wiegand had to justify himself to the management of the WDR. With Uschi Obermaier and Rainer Langhans, two prominent representatives of the youth protest applied for participation [4]. However, these applications were rejected.

New content and forms

"Beat Club" was the first music show that presented English-speaking groups live on television and brought most of the well-known bands into the program. The show later received cult status and is still repeated several times today and distributed on DVD. (Excerpt from a broadcast from 1967) (& copy Radio Bremen, 1967)

As the youth program, which was now managed by younger editors, became more modern and progressive, the conflicts increased. In the "baff" series, it was not only the content but also the forms that aroused the mind. Sociopolitical and cultural topics were not dealt with here as usual in a mix of reportage images, speaker text and interview statements, but by stringing together a wide variety of contributions and scenes without context, without explanation, without comment, without a uniform topic. For example, a dance and music number was followed by a ritual address at the beginning of the semester in a Catholic student union and angry speeches by Bundestag politicians Richard Jaeger and Rainer Barzel against the student protests. The idea behind this form was to stimulate the audience to participate in their own thoughts through an irritating sequence of cuts. In addition to Hans Gerd Wiegand, the fathers of the series included the experimental Dutch directors Bob Rooyens and Gied Jaspars. "Baff" was briefly seen in the evening program of ARD from November 1970, was awarded a golden camera and a golden screen, but was discontinued in 1971.

"Sympathy For The Devil" (ARD)

The team devoted itself to the exploration of youthful subcultures in the influential series "Sympathy For The Devil" (13 parts, 1971–1977), which was produced by several regional broadcasters of the ARD as part of the education program and with the help of rock stars such as Rod Stewart, Alexis Korner or Maggie Bell critically worked on individual styles of pop music, the myth-making of cinema and other topics per episode.

The objectives of the individual ARD broadcasters and the ZDF were inconsistent, so that a pluralistic offer arose: on the one hand, series wanted to calm the unrest in the youth through talk and discussion programs, and on the other hand, programs like those from WDR were aimed at young people offer a platform so that they could express themselves and make protest public. This tendency only increased in the 1970s.

Music programs for young people (FRG)

With the beat culture, the young people created their own cultural world and thus increasingly withdrew from their parents' control. (& copy Günter Zint)

Music programs aimed specifically at young audiences began with jazz programs. In the afternoon, Olaf Hudtwalcker, radio presenter and President of the German Jazz Federation, presented the series "Jazz for Young People" (HR, 1958–1966). Siegfried Schmidt-Joos, who had founded the first officially approved jazz club in the GDR as a teenager against considerable opposition, moderated the "Jazz Workshop" in the West in the 1960s and, from 1966, the pop show "Swing In", in which now Performers such as the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin and BB King were also featured. From 1966 Dieter Pröttel invited to the "Talentschuppen" (SWF, until 1985), in which singers, bands and entertainers presented themselves to a jury consisting of an actress, a journalist, an orchestra leader and a representative of the music industry.

The "Beat Club" (RB)

"Beat Club" was the first music show that presented English-speaking groups live on television and brought most of the well-known bands into the program. The show later received cult status and is still repeated several times today and distributed on DVD. (Excerpt from a broadcast from 1967) (& copy Radio Bremen, 1967)

Radio Bremen set up the "Beat Club" on September 25, 1965 (until 1972), following models such as the British series "Ready Steady Go". Initially, the style of music immortalized in the title dominated, but it didn't stop there. The range can be seen in the occasional concert specials in which the Latin soul band War, Johnny Cash, Duane Eddy and The Osmonds performed, among others. After the broadcasting time was extended from 30 to 60 minutes in 1968, the co-production partner WDR also delivered current film reports on youth-friendly topics in addition to the music.

"Beat Beat Beat" (HR) and "4-3-2-1 Hot and Sweet" (ZDF)

Strong stars such as The Kinks, Tom Jones, Eric Burdon and Julie Driscol could be seen under the title "Beat Beat Beat" from January 7, 1966 to 1969 in the evening program of the Hessischer Rundfunk, which jointly with the US military broadcaster US Armed Forces Network (AFN) was produced. The moderator for the first six issues was the US radio DJ Mal Sondock, who after retiring from military service worked on German radio ("Diskothek im WDR"). The performances took place in the Offenbacher Stadthalle, similar to the "Beat Club", sometimes in the midst of dancing spectators. From July 1966 to 1970, ZDF met the demand on Saturdays on a monthly basis with "4-3-2-1 Hot and Sweet" and achieved an average audience participation of 18%.

Rare and hidden

From 1968 onwards, Norddeutsche Rundfunk launched the Swiss-German co-production "Hits à Gogo" until 1973 in its regional program. The Hessischer Rundfunk and the Südwestfunk followed. For many young people, this did not seem to cover their needs, as a reader letter to the TV magazine "Funk Uhr" reveals in 1968: "The programs like '4-3-2-1 Hot and Sweet' and 'Beat-Club' cannot be praised enough. Unfortunately, they are broadcast far too rarely. Music for the older generation is broadcast almost every weekend, but for us young people only every four weeks "[5].

At least one could occasionally find something hidden at ZDF. The weekly "Sunday concert" usually offered classical music, musicals or operettas on Sundays at twelve, but in between there was also a performance by the blues singer Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton or a concert by the British group Gentle, which is part of the progressive rock genre Giant.

Integration of the youth in the GDR

"Youth, Profession and Perspectives" - an exhibition in Leipzig provides information on career prospects for young people. (& copy Bundesarchiv Bild 183-D0929-0091-003 / Photographer: Heinz Koch)

After 1961, the topics of the youth programs on GDR television no longer followed an all-German objective. They focused more on the integration of young people in the GDR. Advice on professional orientation was a frequent topic. These programs also had a guiding intention, as the choice of the professions presented followed the requirements of the seven-year plan adopted by the state in 1959.

TV series such as "Palette der Jugend" (from 1966/67) and "Treff mit Petra" (from 1962) tried their hand at a colorful mix of topics from the world of young people. However, they often missed the right tone, as illustrated by a review by the Neue Deutsche Presse of the “Junge Optik” series (from 1963), which stated: “It was anything but young, anything but visually interesting Concept was missing "[6].

Topics presented in the "bazaar" appropriate for young people

This changed with the "Basar" series set up in 1965, which remained in the program until the end of 1972 and thus achieved an unusually long running time. The monthly broadcast magazine offered youth-oriented themes from art, literature, fashion, holidays and music in front of a varied backdrop, connected by singing moderators such as the actor Dieter Mann. After 1966, a political orientation came to the fore that emphasized the advantages of the GDR in order to ward off influences that threatened to spill over to the GDR through the politicization of young people in the West. Topics such as "appeal to the muses in the National People's Army" tried to make military service more palatable. The socialist index finger also dominated the program "Palette der Jugend" - criticism of youthful recklessness and a lack of gratitude in view of the "happiness of living in communism".

"Program offensive in 1969"

At the end of the 1960s, the range of programs for young people was increased. Not least because the western programs now brought pictures of the western youth revolts into the house. The program managers at GDR television wanted to counter this. That is why there was a 'program offensive' in 1969, during which five new youth programs were launched. These were the "Freitag-Journal", each dedicated to a single topic, the question and answer magazine "Postfach 70" with the subtitle "Mailbox of the Young", the advice program "Mode und Musik" with the pop stars Chris Doerk and Frank Schöbel, the "Freizeit -Magazin "and finally the educational series" Compass "[7] dedicated to the study of Marxism-Leninism.

Music programs for young people (GDR)


The music revue "Amiga-Cocktail" of the state record company "Amiga" was broadcast live from the Berlin Friedrichstadtpalast. In addition to hit stars, popular beat bands from the GDR also performed. The excerpt comes from the last "scandal show" when the show was canceled after the pop singer Vanna Oliviere whistled. (Excerpt from the 12th broadcast on November 17, 1964) (& copy Stiftung Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv, 1964)

In the offers for musical entertainment for young people, there were attempts to differentiate it from western light music. Rock'n'Roll, Beat and Twist, which are becoming increasingly popular in the West, were met with suspicion by the GDR government. Walter Ulbricht explicitly demanded in 1959 that we should counteract capitalist decadence, "hot music" and the "ecstatic chants of a Presley" with something better [8]). For example, local workers' songs and international protest songs. The US folk singer Perry Friedman first presented such pieces in the GDR youth clubs and from 1961 also in the TV show "Hootenanny".

In 1963 there was a short-term liberalization. The Central Council of the FDJ correctly recognized that the new sounds were "a progressive phenomenon in dance music development" [9]. One spoke of "guitar groups" when one meant beat bands. An attempt was made to integrate these formations - many of them young amateur bands - into the official cultural life of the GDR. Among other things, a talent competition took place.

Scandal in the "Amiga Cocktail"

Overall, however, pop music remained misunderstood and continued to be suspected of contributing to the disintegration of GDR society. The suspicion was fueled again when a real scandal broke out on November 17th, 1964 on the TV show "Amiga-Cocktail". The program offered a colorful cross-section of what the state record company Amiga had to offer: orchestral music, hits, East German beat bands. The audience already reacted with stormy enthusiasm to the Sputniks and the Franke-Echo-Quintet. It was completely beside itself when the Hemmann quintet performed German Beatles hits. As a moderator, Heinz Quermann could not avoid allowing another encore, and later could not prevent the pop singer Vanna Olivieri from being exposed to a loud whistle concert. Subsequent manipulation of the live broadcast events was not possible. The TV series "Amiga-Cocktail" started in 1958 came to an end.

Rejection of western pop culture

The Rolling Stones 1965 on the Waldbühne Berlin. The concert ended in riots. (& copy picture-alliance, United Archives / TopFoto)

When massive riots broke out in West Berlin after a concert by the Rolling Stones in 1965, the GDR leadership took these incidents as an opportunity to rigorously put an end to the newly blossoming youth culture. From then on, a state license was required for public appearances, which was only awarded after thorough examination. But not only musicians were affected. Anyone whose clothing or hairstyle did not meet the prevailing ideas had to reckon with harassment - from having to cut off long hair to prescribed forced labor. It is noteworthy that the GDR leadership struck similar tones in this campaign as conservative circles in the Federal Republic, which otherwise, as class opponents, were the target of violent hostility.

During this phase, musical contributions to youth-oriented GDR television programs such as the early evening magazine "Basar" came mainly from the "singing clubs", which adhered to the "principles of socialist cultural work", according to which in popular music "melodic and harmonic richness, folklore and comprehensibility of the musical message "[10] should be given.

The rejection of western pop music had not only ideological but also economic reasons. Copyright royalties have to be paid for every musical performance; in the case of the GDR, these were valuable foreign currency. In order to keep the outflow of currency within limits, the "60:40" rule had already been enacted in 1958, according to which music programs were allowed to contain a maximum of 40% foreign currency tracks.