During the broadcast era, dominant culture reigned supreme on West German television. Das Zweite Deutsche Fernsehen (zdf) achieved ratings of close to 74 percent during the long Saturday slot in the 1970s. This mass reach, especially of its live popular music programs with built-in audience votes, is often disregarded in historical arguments that focus on the political disunion of that decade. This article takes a closer look at two very different, yet exceptionally popular music shows, Deutsche Hitparade (1969–1984) and Disco (1971–1982), to investigate how the anxiety over sociopolitical change is negotiated on live television, how medium specificity intersects with constructions of masculinity and authority, and how different music and television formats question, manage and produce a national imaginary.
Sunka Simon has a PhD in German from Johns Hopkins University and is currently Professor of German and Film and Media Studies at Swarthmore College. Simon teaches popular music, film, television, and new media. Since 2014, she is Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity. Simon is the author of Mail-Orders: The Fiction of Letters in Postmodern Culture (Albany, 2002) and co-author of Globally Networked Teaching in the Humanities (Abingdon, 2015).