Print and electronic media play a very important role in Brazilian
politics. Until the 1988 constitution, the president had the
exclusive prerogative to allocate radio and television concessions. From 1985 through 1988, television and radio concessions
became the "currency of political negotiation" as President
Sarney tried to maintain majorities in Congress. Although "social
control" over concessions and renewals is called for in the
new constitution, no such action had been taken until Cardoso's
new minister of communications, Sérgio Motta, served notice
in 1995 that all pending concessions would be canceled and a National
Social Control Commission would be established that would use different
Shortly after radio arrived in Brazil in the 1930s, President
Vargas initiated weekday transmissions of the Voice of Brazil,
as propaganda on government operations. The news show, which emphasizes
activities in and around government and political circles, carries
thirty minutes of news from the executive branch and thirty minutes
from Congress and the judiciary.
Media owners have very definite political agendas and pursue them
assiduously. Francisco de Assis Chateaubriand Bandeira de Melo built
the first media empire in Brazil. He founded the Diários
Associados newspaper chain in the 1930s, and in the 1950s established
a media empire that included thirty-three newspapers, eighteen magazines,
the Tupi Network (with twenty-five radio and eighteen television
stations), and two news agencies. Chateaubriand exercised tremendous
coercive power over businessmen, presidents, governors, and Congress.
As a result of losing a political and judicial battle against the
rise of the
TV Globo Network, Tupi deteriorated after Chateaubriand's death
in 1968. The military government finally confiscated and reallocated
its concessions in 1981. The newspaper chain still exists but with
less central coordination.
The second media empire and the most powerful one in 1997, Globo
Organizations (Organizações Globo), began with the
O Globo , founded by Irineu Marinho in the 1920s. In 1931 the oldest
son, Roberto Marinho, assumed control of the newspaper and still
commanded the empire in 1997 at age eighty-five. Globo began radio
transmissions in 1944, and TV Globo began in Rio
de Janeiro in 1965, the latter under a controversial technical
assistance agreement with the Time-Life Group that generated a CPI.
With the establishment of a microwave and later satellite national
hookup by the Brazilian Telecommunications Company (Empresa Brasileira
de Telecomunicações--Embratel) in 1970, the Globo
network steadily advanced to cover all states. The network accounts
for approximately 70 percent of television audience ratings and
advertising billings in Brazil.
In 1993, 333 daily newspapers had a total circulation of about
2.5 million. Magazines sold 222 million copies in 1993 (1.47 per
inhabitant), down 32 percent from 1991. Although per capita newspaper
circulation and readership is very low in Brazil, research has shown
that print media have considerable influence on politics because
of very competent investigative reporting and exposés, influence
among "opinion leaders," and influence on other media.
Of the five national newspapers--O Estado de São
Paulo , Folha de São Paulo , Gazeta Mercantil , O Globo
, and Jornal do Brasil --members of Congress regarded Gazeta Mercantil
as the least biased paper, according to a May 1995 survey.
Radio and especially television exert a tremendous direct influence
over the voting behavior of the vast majority of Brazilians. When
the TSE (Superior Electoral Court) completed a massive computerized
voter registration before the 1986 elections, it classified 70 percent
of those registered as "illiterate or semi-illiterate."
Brazilian television has an insidious influence on these nearly
60 million voters. Political subplots are cleverly woven into television
soap operas (telenovelas ) and situation comedies to jaundice public
opinion about certain political groups and types of politicians.
Biased news coverage of political campaigns is commonplace.
Data as of April 1997