The Role of Television in Everyday Life of the Family in Serbia

Maša Vukanovich
Paper presented at the Fourth Nordic Conference on the Anthropology of Post-Socialism, April 2002, by Maša Vukanovich, researcher at Center for Study in Cultural Development, Belgrade.
© Maša Vukanovich. Distributed by
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Everyday life is a total of routines, actions and reactions repeated day after day. Medias play important role in everyday life. Television as a "view into the world" and radio as a "drum of the tribe" became as a members of the family, all over the globe. However, the difference in Serbia, comparing with the other (especially European) countries is based on crisis period in the 90s. During the period of Slobodan Milosevic's regime, one had to check out: war reports, economic and social reports (due to the sanctions), etc. And when one sees and hears all those (carefully edited) stories, then the soap starts to relax him or her and show that there is an easy going side of life. And one really needed to remain staring at TV screen and fill time which he or she would normally (which is: in the good old days) spent in theatre, cinema or kafana (which became usually unaffordable during the 90s). The year 1999 was marked with bombardment. Another war started and this one was close, bombs felt near and on our houses, working places, bridges, even on national television building. Everyone wanted to know what was bombed that day and felt strong urge to watch television as a source of informations. Television became unicoded, broadcasting news and movies. The reason was official and simple: it was an order given by military authorities in order to preserve national unity and not to disturb nation. The next important date (from the point of television consumption) is 14th of April 2000, the day when the opposition rally was held in Belgrade. This date is important for me to mention because TV "Politika" (under Miloševi's control at the time) in order to sabotage a rally and make people stay at home, broadcasted the movies played in Belgrade's cinemas at the time such are, for example, "American beauty" or "James Bond: Golden Eye", but majority of people ignored television that day and went on Republics square. Later on that year, Miloševi lost the elections and things appeared to change. Euphoria marked not only the citizens of Serbia but also reflected on television program. Popularity of talk shows grew, especially those which dealt with current political issues, different television stations started to compete who will have better guests, who will be the first one who will make a program scheme which will be the most attractive for the audience. However, it turned out that nothing essentially changed, as we shall se further on. Accent in this paper is not on the formal characteristic of the family but on the domestic process of consumption.

Research was performed at the end of 1999, beginning of 2000 and final update was made in January 2002. While doing the research for this paper I used few methods: interview, observation with participation, questionary and informal conversations. Informants are mainly young people aged between 19 and 30 years, living in urban areas.

Questioanry was offered to students on the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade and I received the answers from thirty one (31) students. Twenty four of them are from Belgrade and seven are from towns in the countryside (Bor, Kraljevo, Kragujevac, Zrenjanin, Ruma, Panevo, Sokobanja). Nevertheless, four of them partly refused to answer by giving yes/no answers.

Interviews (taped on audio cassettes) were made with fifteen informants from New Belgrade. The interviews were made at their homes mainly without the presence of other members of the family. Considering that I live in New Belgrade, I had numerous opportunities to empirically prove their stories. Also, most of my informal conversations were made with inhabitants of New Belgrade. Living with my family, which isn't extraordinary comparing to the others, made easier for me to comprehend relations in other families.

Group interviews within seven families were made in Leskovac (town on the South of Serbia). In these interviews participated almost all members of the families. Also, I used the observation and participation.

Update was made throughout interviews with previously interviewed informants from New Belgrade and some new people who are mainly from Belgrade.

Crisis in Serbian society reflected upon rise of conflicts between breadwinners (parents). Generation approximately aged of 25 years still lives with their parents, facing the lack of perspectives mixed with low financial budget. Therefore, I decided to focus on this generation especially because they can make quite good observations and remarks upon family life.

Television and its Program

There are aproximately 70 local television stations in Srbia.

"The most important ten are controlled by local community authorities. Only 14 television stations in Serbia have a working premission. Four of them claim that they are independent and that they have private owners: BK, Spektrum, Pink and Kanal 9 (Kragujevac)." (Mediji u Srbiji..., 1998:42)

The first channel of National television (RTS) is the only one which is possible to watch everywhere in Serbia. It is estimated that aproximately one third of population in Serbia can watch only this channel. Other relevant channels, apart from strictly local ones, are: Studio B which covers Belgrade and area of 100 km around Belgrade, including Kragujevac, which is 3.5 milions of viewers; BK television station watch 25% of population, which means Belgrade and surrounding area. Until NATO agression it was possible to see it in Leskovac as well. Television station "Pink" covers Belgrade and surrounding area, but they use cable links of National television which provides them larger teritory. These are the "biggest" TV stations in Serbia by the number of viewers and area which they cover. Only TV "Pink" is comercal station in stricto senso: they play movies, soap operas, music and sport shows. BK plays various program: movies, soaps, news and thematically various shows, or as one of BK managers said:

"We would like to be somewhere between RTS and Studio B. We don't want to stir things up."

Studio B was the only alternative to RTS and their program consisted news, political shows, sports, music, movies and soaps.

There are up to 10 to 15 television stations in Belgrade, depending on the city area. For example, on New Belgrade reception of Novi Sad TV stations is good wheras in the communities near Panevo, reception of Panevo local television stations is better.

In Leskovac, it is possible to watch 7 TV stations. Four of them are channels of National television RTS.

Concept of television program is like that, it offers everything for everyone. Entertaining, education, information are the aspects which fulfills everyone's wishes. However, it is usually described (now and then; nowadays and before political changes) as sterile, monotonous and boring. Manipulation is something which underlines most of the interviews which I made. Also, majority of my informants think that actually nothing really changed in television program as well.

Generally, I don't like the TV program. The conception is old fashionable; content of the shows is modest. Cultural and educational shows are neglected. Sport shows are OK. Political shows are everyday propaganda except B92 and BK.

32 years old male sociologist, Belgrade.

TV has a lot to work upon self. Although, when I take a look upon foreign televisions, well, we're not bad at all.

22 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Belgrade.

TV program is a bit better nowadays. It appears to be open for different opinions. Although journalists are still the same ass kissers.

27 years old student of Technology, New Belgrade.

In the period of former Yugoslavia television program was better although only two channels existed at the time. Then it became horrible, below any esthetic standards and nowadays, after 5th of October changed only regarding the language which they use. Still, nothing essentially changed. On weekends the program is still horrible.

27 years old female marketing manager, New Belgrade.

This way of thinking relies upon understanding that quantity influences degradation of quality. In order to keep the audience, smaller number of TV stations has to pay attention on quality of program which they broadcast. On the other hand, large number of TV stations provides multy production where everything "can go".


Variety of shows on both TV and radio caused a variety of preferences. One of the most common indicators of popularity of shows are charts published in specialized TV and radio magazines. According to the research performed in 1986/87 by Milena Dragievi - Šeši and group of students of Belgrade's Faculty for Drama Arts, at the time favorite shows in Serbia were sports, local Belgrade program, movies and soaps, folk music and other entertainment shows, whereas favorite radio stations were Studio B and Belgrade 202. On the chart published in a specialized TV magazine "TV Novosti" on 3rd of April 1996 the first place was held by domestic soap opera "Sreni ljudi" ("Happy people"), followed by sports (football, wallyball, handball) and movies. In January 200 the most popular show in Belgrade was "7 o' clock news" on Studio B television whereas in Serbia on the first place was hispanoamerican soap "Pravo na ljubav" ("The right to love") played on TV Pink. Preferences follow the line: movies, soaps, sports, news, and educational shows. This line is a consequence of essential functions of television: informational, educational and entertaining.

Majority of my informants as a main reason why they watch television named entertainment. When you don't have anything better to do, you just turn on your TV set and sail away where everything is different. You can rest from everything and everyone. The best sail away possibilities are offered in the soaps and movies. Switching to another reality provides the rest of everyday life problems. Especially for women. Males find their escaping channel throughout sports, especially football.


Soaps have their origin in the US radio serials of the 1930's which were sponsored by Procter and Gamble the soap corporation. Subsequently the term "soap opera" came to be associated with a melodramatic style of drama serials. (Mullan, 1997:54)

The structure of the soaps is quite similar to the structure of fairy tales. The plot is standardized, narration is basically the same, the characters are connected by blood or love relations, the end is usually "and they lived happily ever after". Extension is achieved by cuts at the most interesting moments which promises intensity of forthcoming events. They imply:

"All of your worries and problems will be overcame eventually, the happy end is inevitable".

It appears worthy to wait for the end.

Hispanoamerican soaps (commonly known in Serbia as "spanish soaps" because of Spanish language) are usually watched by females (all generations) and middle aged married males. Women at the beginning, watch alone or with female friends and neighbors. Then their husbands start to be interested in checking out what do their wives watch, then they try to sabotage and then they get sucked. The reasons why women watch them are:

Mum watches the hispanoamerican soaps because she claims that in the times like these everyone needs lemonade.

19 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Belgrade.

Mother watches these soaps "King of the Cowboys" and company because she has no other joys so she spends her free time watching the soaps.

24 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Belgrade.

Love soaps, nothing else. I don't know. They are so romantic. I'm so into it, you wouldn't believe.

28 years old housewife, Leskovac.

She has nothing better to do at the time. She watches them probably because she likes reading love novels, you know, where everything is ideal, justice wins, the actors are young, beautiful and handsome, mothers as well, etc. While you watch it, it is so stupid that you don't even have to use your brain.

26 years old female student of French language and literature, New Belgrade.

"We' ve got nothing better to do." F*** it, they have no money for cinema or theatre.

21 years old female student of Sociology, New Belgrade.

We watch hispanoamerican soaps and other soaps because they are romantic, relaxing, interesting and they can even make you laugh. Sometimes one can question his or hers way of life while watching all that "glitter and gold" in other countries.

23 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Belgrade.

I think that these soaps make people stupid. I hate them and my mum thinks that they are truly romantic.

25 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Ruma.

I like watching [hispanoamerican sopas] although I am aware of general opinion about them. I agree with some of the opinions but I don't mind them. General opinion is that they have simple plot, that the actors are bad, that they are easy soaps, but, for God sake, why should we watch something heavier?

21 years old female student of Chemistry, Leskovac.

Obviously, key words are: easy, romantic, "killing time". In comparing with angloamerican, hispanoamerican soaps appear to be closer to Balkans:

When you watch american soaps like "Dynasty" for example, the problems which they are facing are "I got so annoyed, should I buy $20 000 dress or a diamond necklace?" whereas in hispanoamerican soaps they are facing the problems such is "I'm in love with Pedro and got marriage proposal by Juan. God, what shall I do?" which is more realistic and closer to our lives."

39 years old male sales manager, Belgrade.

Finally something contra from all these Dynasty, Dallas, Melrose Place, Beverly Hills crap. Sometimes I watch these spanish soaps. I think that they are closer to our reality because we are not rich american upper middle class like in these american soaps. I think that is good actually to have the various offer of the soap operas like french, american, hispanoamerican, australian...

22 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Belgrade.

Hispanoamerican soaps are usually ended with a wedding scene whereas angloamerican soaps are usually ended with loss of audience. Wedding scene (as important part of the soaps) in angloamerican soaps is not the end because a lot of things are going on in the marriage and people sometimes like to compare television marriage with their own. Wedding scene at the end of hispanoamerican soaps makes them closer to fairy tales. This closeness with fairy tales associates the sense of security and stability which represents the opposition to real life in Serbia during the 90s. Some of my informants blamed the regime, accusing it for making people "asleep" or making parallels with (also restrictive) regimes in South American countries:

I blame SPS, Sloba and JUL for these soaps. The more stupid and without any other interest people are easier to manipulate with.

19 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Kragujevac.

The hispanoamerican soaps have for their aim to educate people like "be good and one day your 5 minutes will come, this is not the worst thing which could happen to you." Angloamerican soaps have wider target groups and they tend toward (material) consumption. I watch "Heartly High" [Australian soap opera]. This soap, as well as other teenage soaps, are good in their first round before viewers start to write and beg for certain things to happen

26 years old female student of Technology, New Belgrade.

The major change (regarding soap operas) comparing before and after political changes is the popularity of "Sex and the city" American soap. It became another hysteria, quite similar to Venezuelaian soap "Cassandra". However, all the soaps played on Serbian televisions had, as a common point, the reflection of patriarchal society. Wedding and marriage are important things. "Sex and the City" is the first soap opera which allowed the voice of females to be heard. Most of the guys have typical patriarchal opinion:

"They are whores. Promiscuated bitches. It is all the reflection of the frustrated nation such is American."

On the other hand, female version is:

"Finally, you can hear females talking about the topics which we discuss anyway but it was never shown in public. It is good because for the first time we can see the similar situations which we are facing in the real time on TV."

Humoristic soaps such are "The Simpsons", "Only Fools and Horses", "Black Adder" have undivided audience. All generations of both sexes watch them. They are described as entertaining and funny. Also, some of the humoristic soaps are critical towards society. Laughing to the situations which characters are facing feels like laughing to the reality in which we live. That is gratifying, from psychotherapeutic point.

Finally, we reach "X Files", "Millenium", "Homocide" kind of soaps. These soaps are dealing with so to say "dark sides" of life They are usually watched by younger population which finds them more intelligent comparing with "Spanish" soaps.


Unlike soap operas (especially hispanoamerican), sport is a program segment connected with males. The most popular are collective sports such are football, volleyball, handball, basketball. One of the named reasons is because these sports were practiced since boyhood.

Since I was a kid I went on sports matches and I like playing basketball and football here on the playground. Nowadays, I watch only sports on television especially collective sports. I am a football freak because it's thrilling to watch 22 players running all over 100 meters long playground and trying to score a goal.

30 years old carpenter, New Belgrade.

I watch sports. Collective sports. Also, Formula 1, recently I found it interesting… Well, you can see, playground is near my home and since I was a kid I spent quite a lot of time there playing with my mates.

36 years old sales man, Leskovac.

I like watching football because I enjoy green color which dominates the screen. Apart from that, football is the single kind of sports where match can end with the result 0:0 and there are so many combinations and opportunities, more than in any other sport.

28 years old student of TV and Film directing, New Belgrade.

I watch only collective sports except volleyball because there is no direct contact between players. I think that running against time in sports such is athletic is pointless. One can truly compete with others only if there is a physical contact with the others. I think that it is a consequence of my patriarchal upbringing in Bosnia.

32 years old male, sociologist, Belgrade.

However, key for understanding the masculinity of football is deeply rooted in patriarchal society in the area filled with wars and group conflicts (group competing with other group). Football is definitely the most popular sport. It is traditionally considered as a male sport. According to Duke and Corelly,

"The institution of football in many countries serves to perpetuate this existence of patriarchal society. It does that via reinforcement of gender roles on two levels - physic and moral - and this plays part in contributing to historical patterns of male empowerment and female disadvantages." (Duke and Corelly, 1996:129-130).

Football improves qualities such are competition, aggressiveness, etc which are the qualities traditionally considered as a male qualities. Also, physical strength, speed, and ? are traditionally considered as male qualities as well. Psychically or physically strong female is still often seen as unfeminine or bull dyke. Football causes very intensive identification with the team.

… when Allan Kennedy scored in the Parc des Princes (…) I actually thought, if I die now, I won't care, you know, nothing could ever be good as this again. I always say, rather flippantly, but it's not a million miles from truth, that football supplies many of the requirements that other people seek and find in religion, with the difference that you can actually see the truth of it being demonstrated on the pitch every Saturday afternoon, and that is enormously gratifying

John Peel, DJ, quoted according to G.P.T. Finn, 1994:168.

It is quite often that the guys watch the match together at homes, in front of local stores, booking places, etc. Many guys told me that the females are not welcomed to join. I also had the opportunity to check it myself - because in few occasions I was (un)politely asked to leave before the match started or told not to come until the match is finished.

Girls are bad luck. They keep asking questions and ruin the atmosphere. You spend half of the match explaining them the rules and stuff.

30 years old carpenter, New Belgrade.

I watch sports with my mates, but recently I do it rarely because I don't have much free time. We watch it in front of the store. We place TV set and chairs outdoors, drink rakija or beer and make comments and cheer.

36 years old sales man, Leskovac.

These joint watching plays important role in confirming the group identity because they reinforce group ties and integrity of the group itself. Females usually don't have any interest in watching football matches and the only exceptions are the matches of national team. Importance of the matches of national team, however, is based on the imroving national identity and the place which a nation have in comparing with others.


In the decade of crisis news is the most important segment of TV program. Politics, economy, events in the country and abroad, cultural events, sports and weather forecast are the plot of the news shows. That is, news covers everything which is significant for everyday life. Digested stories about the events in country and abroad make them inevitable…

Starting from 7 o'clock in the evening. Studio B then BK then RTS, I think that is the order. Of course, if my parents come earlier from their jobs then they watch Belgrade chronicles to check out what is going on in town, then we have diner while TV is on in the background with more news. It is irritating for me. Constantly. I spent all my youth listening news.

27 years old painters, New Belgrade.

We turn on TV when "New at 7" starts on Studio B. Before that we don't watch TV.

27 years old female student of Technology, New Belgrade.

News are No1. My parents watch news on Studio B and sometimes the end of Dnevnik just to see "how do they lie"

20 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Zrenjanin.

The most relevant TV stations are RTS, Studio B, B92 (ANEM) and BK. According to the research of Media Center number of viewers drastically increases at 19:30 when Dnevnik 2 on RTS 1 starts (that is the most important news show) and then decrease when it is over. The percentage was: 8% of the population watches TV before 19:30 and then it grows up to 24% when Dnevnik is on. Also, according to the chart published in "TV Novosti" on 19th of January 2000 the most popular show in Belgrade was Studio B's "Vesti u 7" ("News at 7")

There are almost no differences comparing the period before and after 5th of October 2000. According to most of my informants, informating is not objective at all, it's almost like a make up which changed.

I don't think that reporting is more objective nowadays. Still one can hear news on Studio B or B92 but altogether it is still controlled, like elsewhere in the world. How it would look like if people could see the truth? Medias by default are manipulative.

28 yeas old female psychologist, Belgrade.

Informing is not objective at all because journalists are trying to get into guest's ass

22 years old female journalist, Belgrade.

I don't think that the news shows are more objective than they were previously. Glorifying of the «success» is still the same. The people i know, as well as myself, watch news rarely nowadays probably because situation is more stabile and secure. Slobodan Miloševi's trial rose the number of audience but I hate it. From one side people enjoy watching his suffering while others glorify him. This other option is even worse because it reflects the short memory syndrom in Serbian population. Like «poor Sloba, he's showing therm» while they forget how we lived during his regime.

27 years old female marketing manager, New Belgrade.

BK and B92 are the only TV stations which have a decent information and politics program. B92 gets money from abroad and they have to frollow some instructions from their donors. BK is currently the most objective and independent. I came to this conclusion becauase I compare the news which I see and real life and so far BK fitted the best with real life.

32 years old male sociologist, Belgrade.

According to Ruterford Smith (1997) as well as Bird and Dardenne (1997), «as a communication process, news can act like myth and folklore.» Just as well as myths, news tell the story of everyday life, with the same structure. They start with the sentence «God eveninig / day dear viewers, here are the breaking news of the day...» just mythical «in the old days...». The difference is: news tell the stories more relevant to nowadays, stories which may influence quite near future. They are most recent by the end of the day because they summarize the day ending with something which will happen tomorrow (weather forecast, at least).

TV, Remote Control, Dad, Mum, Kids - Power Relations in the Family

House, as a family basis, is, as Morley pointed, leisure place for males and working place for females (it doesn't matter whether they are employed or not). There are few sectors within a house: kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, toilet, etc. We shall stop in the living room, as a center of joint activities in the family.

"The TV is often the center of collective attention in the living room of a household, although individual activities focused elsewhere at the same time. Families and households are therefore drawn together and sometimes divided in argument by this shared experience", Gauntlett and Hill, 1999:49

Having more than one TV set is quite common but it doesn't deny collective watching. Second TV set is usually placed in parent's bedroom or in children's room and usually watched by children.

Raymond Williams describes watching television as a flow experience

"having read two plays, three or four newspaper, three or four magazines on the same day that one has been to a variety show and a lecture and a football match", quoted according to Mullan 1997:64

The remote control device is a device which makes watching TV easier. In many families there are different names for the remote control device ("daljinac", "škljocalo", "that thing", etc) which may indicate the way in which one family relates to this device and television in general. In a general term remote control device I would emphasis the word control because it provides control over presented information. The one who holds remote control device holds the possibility of deciding the information which will be presented. "The remote control device is in my possession" means "I shall decide (for you) what I / you will watch" which is "I shall decide what I / you will learn".

According to Gauntlett and Hill (1999) mainly males hold the remote control device but their findings indicate that sexes are less divided than they were in previous decades. According to my findings remote control device is mainly in the possession of the fathers:

My father holds the remote control device. He has the most comfortable chair and he watches television straight ahead. The rest of us watch television from aside. When my mum watches a film she usually pays attention on houses, their decoration, and dresses and makes comments such is "how do they heat such a big house?" and my dad always makes comments that it is not possible in the real life (no matter what is in question). My father can watch two films in the same time; he switches from one to another. It drives us crazy. However, at the end he let us watch what we want because we watch television sometimes whereas he watches it all the time.

19 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Belgrade.

When we watch together my dad holds the remote control device and then he starts flipping through all of them: from first to tenth and back. My mum usually makes comment such is "Stop forcing it! You remind me on my father!"

23 years old male student of medicine, New Belgrade.

When I watch television with my family it looks like this: my father is lying on the bed, next to him is a chair with his cigarettes, ashtray and remote control device. The rest of us sit all around. I usually sit on the floor because I feel comfortable there.

19 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Belgrade.

Remote control device is kind of a power symbol which helps the father / husband to show "who's the boss of the family". Patriarchality of the family justifies males' opinion that it is natural that they should hold the control over information. However, the possibility of seeing something new or just to escape into surreal is attractive to the others as well. This may cause the conflict:

Wife: He watches sports and we are arguing. He is really into it, basketball, health, and our son is into it as well. When there is a match, then we have to watch it. Sometimes he has mercy upon me and lets me watch a film. Otherwise, I argue and argue and then I stop, never mind. Sometimes I don't want to argue, I give up, and I let them watch.

Do you change the channel when your wife watches the soap?

Husband: No, I don't dare. It turns into divorce argument, crying, weeping. I just provoke her.

Wife: He provokes me and annoys me.

Husband: She can't watch it properly. But when it happens that the match is overlapping with the soap opera, then it is a slaughter in the house.

Wife: We usually watch sports.

Husband: Yeah, because they replay these soaps in the morning, so, honey, you can watch it anyway, and the match is only once and I cannot watch it again. These soaps are annoying anyway especially when there is something better to watch.

This conversation taped in a family in Leskovac shows the conflict between wife and husband. Outcome depends on husbands' willingness to let his wife to watch what she wants or on wife's willingness to argue and eventually wins. The most common case if there are two TV sets in the household is that wife simply switch into another room and continue to watch what she started. The rarest solution is taping the show / soap / film on VCR.

In the previous example the reason for arguing is overlapping of a soap opera and sport match. This is the most common reason for argument. News shows are of common interest; there is a consensus if they are consumed in a normal measure and they are rarely overlapped with either sports or soaps. Other kinds of programs are not interesting enough for arguing. Conflict, which is a result of overlapping of soaps and sports, is based on the gender differences (females usually hate watching sports and the only exception is a national team match; whereas males usually dislike soaps).

My parents sometimes argue about the program which they will watch. Mum likes to watch soaps and movies whereas my father likes to watch news and sports. Sometimes we watch the match together. They are arguing if the match overlaps with soap and if not, then they watch the soap.

28 years old male student of TV and film directing, New Belgrade.

If there is soap overlapping with sports, then it all depends on a type of sports. If it is a football match and no one is interested except dad, then he watches his small TV. Of course, first he is nagging and making comments such is "no one respects me here" or something like that. But if it is a basketball match which my sister wants to watch as well, then the match it is. My sister starts with a scene and dad joins her and then we watch the match.

27 years old female marketing manager, New Belgrade.

Children may play important role in a choice of the channel which will be watched. That is a case especially in families where it is possible to establish balans based on gender interests, for example son(s) - fathers, mother - daughter(s). In the families with daughters cooperation could be established upon films. Also, if a daughter is a single child, fathers may treat them as sons and bring them on matches or watch matches together (I know few girls who didn't miss a single Red Star football match in Belgrade while they were young).

However, although children may contribute the choice of channel which will be watched, they rarely have the opportunity to decide on their own. According to Milena Dragievi - Šeši, mainly children in the intellectual families have a control over remote control device because parents, preoccupied with existential problems do not have enough time for their children so their children switch toward reality broadcasted on the television. Still, holding the remote control device is one of the ways of teaching authority.

Authorities (mum and dad) have the right to give a final choice of channel but if we do some small favor such is going to buy them cigarettes they are willing to let us watch what we want.

21 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Belgrade.

On the other consciousness that remote control device is in the possession of the father may be so strong that the child simply leaves the room when father comes to watch telly:

It is like a habit: when my father enters the living room to watch TV I immediately stop watching and leave the room

25 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, New Belgrade.

Usually it ends up bad for me if I want to watch something that they don't want to watch and then either I stop watching or I go to my parents' room and continue to watch. If they are watching something that I don't want to watch and there is nothing better I go to my room to read or surf on the Internet

23 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Ruma

Easy solution: timetable! Family watching is limited only to common interests and all the members of the family are trying to respect each other's.

We watch together rarely, everybody has his / hers term according to individual interests. The rest of the family is trying to respect this timing.

21 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Belgrade.

We watch TV together rarely. We usually watch together only the shows in which we are all interested so it doesn't matter where is the remote control device.

20 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Belgrade.

With them I usually watch Studio B or Eurosport. I try to avoid watching the shows which demands making comments with the rest of my family. Usually we are all trying not to disturb each others because my father and myself, we have similar political views, I argue with my brother only because Formula 1 and I argue with my mother all the time so TV doesn't make any change.

19 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Belgrade.

It is easy for us. There is one TV set which I watch and the other one which my wife, mother and daughter watch.

43 years old male, information team manager, Belgrade.

This so to say flexible version based on various interests is easier in the case if there are more TV sets. And then peace in the household is achieved as far as watching television. On the other hand, this may lead too lessening communication among the members of the household. The quality time that they spend together is then limited on the rare moments of joint watching or even rarer moments of joint non-watching. Of course, I can name an example that describes the family that doesn't watch television frequently and prefers to spend their quality time in other joint activities:

When I watch the film I am trying to watch it carefully but I can do it only if I am alone. Otherwise my parents always have better ideas for fun. In the worst case we all make comments upon the film. Anyway, we love when we are together and it is more fun to replace TV watching with something more interesting such is a game of monopoly or card game or gossiping or making dinner.

19 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Kragujevac.

Watching television with my family is fun. Remote control device is on the floor, no one has it. My baby brother makes "sabotages" because of cartoons. While we watch the movie, we are explaining each other what is happening, when we watch football match, we cheer and swear a lot, etc.

21 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Sokobanja.

I don't like watching television on my own. It is a bit depressive. I think of television as entertainment. I like making comments and that is why I like watching it with someone because I would feel as a complete jerk if I make comments with myself. My parents and my sister like making comments as well and then we all make comments and have fun.

25 years old female pharmacist, New Belgrade.

Au contraire, there are examples describing family watching as a horrible experience:

Watching with my family is totally desperate. We argue about politics, we feel falsely ashamed because erotic scenes, I am trying to hold my tears when we watch some tragic or pathetic scene when I want to cry but I can't because I am not alone. Watching television is like my social life - completely intimacy free.

22 years old male student of ethnology and anthropology, Zemun.

Now we reached the contrast: fun vs. desperate. When a father keeps flipping through all the channels, when mother hushes everyone while she watches soap opera, when everyone is chatting while you watch something which is really interesting for you… these are the scenes which are not the idea of fun but the idea or irritation. They are excluding and opposite to the scenes when everyone is drawn in a collective flow experience of commenting, gossiping or chatting. Frequent is usually connected with boring. And when you have only one TV set than you are condemned on joint watching.

Flipping throughout channels is not rare at all. The most frequent reason are commercials and searching for something more interesting. However, this frequent changing of channels provide the creation of rather freakish do it yourself program which may indicate the existence of neurosis.

"This switch from reasonably conservative shows makes even weirdest picture of the world: football match after few frames is replaced with the film which is, after few frames replaced with folklore which is after few frames replaced with the scenes of bombing, etc. This kind of mix yourself program is even more neurotic than the one originally offered by television", Milena Dragievi Šeši

Impossibility of "swallowing" this mixture leads to leaving the living room and watching other TV set. This spatial separation indicates the separation of the household on two units and deepens communicational gap between the members of the household.

But What Happens When the TV Set Breakes Down?

Television, because it delivers world into the house, plays important role in everyday life. Therefore, when TV set is broken, it is a time of isolation and feeling that things are happening beside us. Simply, we are excluded. Of course, one can find out about the important news from newspapers, radio or in conversation with other people but "that's not it". Television requires full participation. Therefore things percepted via television have bigger cognitive value because one can see and hear the event which represents information, news (whether its politics, worldwide events, entertainment industry news, etc). Interruption of that cognitive process may be understood tragically. One girl literally ran back home after 15 hours long electricity cut (due to graphic bombs which felt on the electricity net) so she could catch up films which were, at the time, played on almost every channel. Similar example is given by pediatric nurse (also student of ethnology and anthropology), age 24, New Belgrade:

TV of my father is on all day long and all of the night whether he watches it or not. [My father] belongs to communist generation and he is totally addicted. He says himself that he couldn't imagine his life without television. He is a victim of television, brain washing and dressure because the news is the segment of all the channels he watches. TV is my enemy No 1 because my father plays it too loud in the nighttime and in the morning. As soon as he wakes up he turns on his only contact with reality. When my father's TV set breaks down, he immediately calls the repairmen service and gets it fixed the very same day. He would give his last savings just to have his pet. The other TV set (which was in my and my brother's room) is broken for years and we have no intention to fix it, we kicked it out and we live much better without its radiation.

Television as (non-) alive member of the household gets a lot of attention. So when TV set is "ill" i.e. when it breaks down, just the same as any other member of the household, it is taken to the "doctor" i.e. service which repairs it. TV set is a member of the household that provides a connection with wider (social) environment, usually father takes it for repairing because fathers' traditional role is maintaining connection with outer world. Also, the reason why father (or son in the absence of the father) takes TV set for repairing is the technology issue: techniques (in any sense) are traditionally understood as a male domain. Time needed for repairmen is usually short:

Dad takes it for repairing, fastly and efficiently.

21 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Belgrade.

When TV set is broken FATHER calls the repairman as soon as possible.

29 years old employed male, New Belgrade.

First my father tries to fix it, then my sister, and if non of them succeeded, then they call repairman. Anything that breaks down in our household, except the car, is reasonably fastly repaired. Dad does that.

27 year old female marketing manager, New Belgrade.

We fix it straight away because we can't live without it. I take it to the repairmen service. VCR, TV set, all technique devices, I take care about them.

24 years old male student of geography, New Belgrade.

Repairing of TV set doesn't have to be urgent. It may depend on financials:

First we check family budget and then we talk. We have repairman service in our building anyway.

22 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, New Belgrade.

… depends on financials. If it should wait, well, it's not the end of the world. But after few weeks, it should fixed. In the meantime, well, if you want to watch something, then you go to your neighbors.

21 years old female student of chemistry, Leskovac.

Anyhow, when TV set breaks down, the other TV set (if existing) is available, or family switches to the radio or, as girl from Leskovac said, one can go and watch it in the neighborhood. The time without television indicates the importance of television in everyday life:

The last time it happen for a month. It is really horrible when you don't have TV at home. I swear to God. It's like a habit. It is on from dawn to dusk.

28 years old housewife, Leskovac.

On the other hand, some students stated that the quality of their lives improves when TV set is broken but other members of the family, especially parents, and simply cannot without television:

When TV set breaks down, my private life starts to flourish. My parents with their monotonous lives call the same jerk that repair the same TV set for 25 years.

24 years old male student of ethnology and anthropology, Zemun.

Once we made a deal not to fix it. And we lived happily for a month. It was great but my parents couldn't without it.

21 years old female student of sociology, New Belgrade.

When TV set is broken - it stops delivering outer world in the household. This is regarded positively because it provides turning towards (ones' own) micro world. Broken TV set makes people to turn towards each other, one living human being to another living human being and not one living human being to another human living in the "box".

In the actual repairing process, as our examples showed, father obviously plays important role. However, mother may be the one who will insist on repairing.

My dad takes it for repairing but my mum is the one who gets the first idea. She could not skip so many sequels of the soaps. My mum starts nagging and dad has no choice. As far as he's concern, it wouldn't be repaired at all.

26 years old female student of French language and literature, New Belgrade.

When TV set breaks down, we have another one from my parents' bedroom. My mother insists that TV set should be fixed so she wouldn't miss her soaps.

23 years old female student of ethnology and anthropology, Ruma.

In both example mothers insist on repairing and the reason behind is the time that they spend at home while their husbands are outdoors.

While I'm doing house works I always listen to the radio or TV. It happens sometimes that my daughter watches soap and I listen the radio. She reads subtitles and watch and I listen.

29 years old employed female, Leskovac.

It works non - stop. All day long. I feel better when I have company. When kids are at school. I prefer TV than radio although when we are sewing then we listen the radio to relax us while working. I cannot watch television while I'm working. When I am alone I watch television. What else can I do? When I am not working I am watching.

36 years old employed female, Leskovac.

I turn on TV as soon as I wake up at least to have some company because I am mainly alone. I do housekeeping, television is on, and when the soap starts, I sit and watch.

28 years old housewife, Leskovac.

Television is obviously the only company which woman has. When it breaks down, she loses company and therefore insists on repairing. Apart from that, women sometimes perform some of their works in front of TV. Television is a flow experience and therefore needed by both sexes.


Woman is usually at home; man is usually not at home.

Woman does house works, which is a never-ending process (there is always a bit of dust on the night table or a crumb on the floor).

Man rarely does house works (emancipation is not typical Balkan characteristic).

Children are usually trying to avoid house works and prefer to spend time outdoors or in their rooms.

Television inherited a fireplace.

Television is a view into the world.

Television is a part of household inventory (female domain).

Television broadcasts informations which are part of near and wide surrounding environments (male domain).

These theses indicate the opposition house (inside) : public (outside). This opposition is quite common in various aspects of life and, of course, there were conflicts based on this opposition. However, the division was clear. And then radio came and then television came. Both radio and television are part of inside and outside worlds and they caused a commotion. In the early days conflicts were easily overcame because there were only a few (or to be quite specific 2 TV channels in Yugoslavia) and there wasn't a remote control device. And then number of television channels grew and then remote control device was constructed and raised the tension. The issue of possession of remote control device became an important issue in understanding power relations within a family. Males grew up in a patriarchal society, found it normal:

"We should decide what will be watched! What is going on in the community, in the country and abroad is our concern!"

However, TV set and remote control devices are part of household inventory and women wanted to take equal part in such decision-making. Also, television is most of the time their only company especially while performing house works such is ironing, peeling potatoes, etc. Power division in patriarchal society gave the (public) power to the males. However, females learnt and developed various techniques in achieving balans (just remember that behind every great man there must have been a great woman). Power balans is improved again in the issue of television and remote control device.

As far as generation differences, well, television obviously means more to the middle-aged and elder generations. Generation in their 20s still prefers partying, going out, traveling, etc. In the urban areas, the common opinion can be described throughout the lyrics of quite popular song of early 90s "Television - the drug of the nation" performed by The Disposable Heroes of Hip Hoprisy:

It is evil ("metronome pumping out 150 channels 24 hours a day"), makes us stupid (TV is the reason "Why most people think Central America means Kansas" or that "Apartheid is a new headache remedy"), it is hypnotizing element which "breeds ignorance and feeds radiation").

Günter Anders claims that leisure is terror because it beats us before the "fight" actually starts. Television fulfills leisure time.

Let me just remind that television is a sole activity which accompanies fulfillment of all primer, biological needs. Living room (space) is organized in a way which makes television watching as comfortable as possible. TV dinners connect both - having a meal and watching television. Television is a device which can sleepen us or awake us. Also, afternoon nap in front of turned on television is not rare at all (and that is direct jump into our unconsciousness via dreams). TV may be additional light or even main source of light in the nighttime. Sound of television may camouflage the sounds of sexual act performed in the room. Also, watching porno films may be inspirative. The air is filled with television.

Is it good or bad - the choice is yours!


Gauntlett D. and Hill, A., 1999, TV Living. Television, Culture and Everyday Life, Routledge in association with British Film Institute, London and New York

Dragievi - Šeši, M., 1994, Neofolk kultura. Publika i njene zvezde, Izdavaka knjižarnica Zorana Stojanovia Sremski Karlovci, Novi Sad

Duke V. and Corelly L., 1996, Football, Nationality and the State, Longman, London / Singapore

Mullan, B., 1997, Consuming Television, Blackwell Publishers Ltd

Rutherford Smith, R., 1997, "Mythic Elements in Television News" in Berkowitz D. (ed), Social Meaning of News. A Text Reader, SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi

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