Mass communications was a large industry and an indispensable instructive tool, helping to disseminate and promote the government line. More than 8600 newspapers were published in 1988, about two-thirds in Russian and one-third in minority languages; their combined circulation of 230 million put them within reach of almost every citizen. The most widely read were Trud (Labor), the daily organ of the trade unions, with a print run of 19 million; Komsomol’skaya pravda (Komsomol Truth), the newspaper of the Komsomol (Communist Youth League), at 17.6 million; Pravda (Truth), the CPSU’s mouthpiece, at 10.7 million; and Izvestia (News), published by the Soviet parliament, at 10.4 million. The Soviet Union’s 5400 periodicals and 81,600 new books in 1988 reached more select readerships.
The Soviet Union’s radio and television broadcasters were under the jurisdiction of the State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting. The two national television networks, Radio Moscow, and about 5300 local stations and transmitters made broadcasts in 72 languages. Radios were found in most Soviet homes by the 1950s, and television made rapid inroads after 1960. Ninety-two million televisions and 85 million radio receivers were in service in 1989.
Telephones were less common: only 24 million home phones were installed at the time. User demand for telephones and other telecommunications systems far exceeded the government’s supply of these services; instead, the state gave precedence to the development needs of the national economy.
The Soviet regime built on the tsarist tradition of censorship of books and publications, imbuing it with greater rigor and fervor. The main screening board for all media was the Main Administration for Safeguarding State Secrets in the Press, known by its Russian acronym of Glavlit. Established in 1922, it carried out advance checks of only some materials, leaving daily responsibility with editorial boards and with ideological specialists in the apparatus of the CPSU.
In addition to propagating the regime’s point of view, the mass media entertained their audiences and informed them about public issues. Some reporters and commentators also indulged in discreet criticism of shortcomings in Soviet life. From time to time the media were caught up in political power struggles, conveying the positions of rival patrons. Liberalization in the mass media was the gist of the policy of glasnost (Russian for “openness” or “candor”) that Gorbachev articulated after 1985. Censorship was greatly eased, investigative journalism was applauded, and independent newspapers and journals came forth for the first time since the early 1920s. "USSR" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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