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The Media



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 criteria.

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 Rio newspaper 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



 



 


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