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The Brazilian Way

Television started to develop in Brazil in the 1950's. TV Tupi was the pioneer, funded by Assis Chateaubriand in São Paulo, on September 18, 1950. In 1951, TV Tupi Rio was born. Chateaubriand was a Brazilian entrepreneur, head of a successful publishing business called "Diários Associados". It all began when he brought into Brazil around 300 TV sets to sell to the local elite. Apparently, he wanted to be known as the television pioneer, and went on with this new venture against the opinion of US consultants that he had hired for a feasibility study (Fox, 1997; Vink, 1988). At that time, telenovelas were not a daily affair; they were broadcast twice a week, for twenty minutes. The first televised soap aired was "Sua vida me pertence” (Your life belongs to me), in December of 1951. It was on the air twice a week for fifteen minutes and lasted for three months (Vink, 1988).

There were many operational difficulties in producing the soaps, including the challenges of live broadcast, small studios, and lack of expertise. A common problem was to get the actors, usually coming from the radio, to memorize their texts, because they were used to reading the scripts. The interpretation would also lack the necessary body language; even though the verbal inflection was usually perfect (Porto & Silva, 1995). The economic and commercial aspect of the television business also played a role in the development of this new media. During the 50's, television advertisements were mostly from small, local stores. Television broadcasting was limited to some large cities such as São Paulo (1950), Rio de Janeiro (1951), and Belo Horizonte (1955). However, geographical limitation was not the only reason television attracted a restricted audience during that time. The combination of the high cost of TV sets, along with the limitations of the signal reach, and the type of programming, constricted television’s early appeal to the upper-middle class (Straubhaar, 1982). Therefore, multinational firms would prefer to spend their money advertizing in newspapers or radio, which had a far greater audience (Ortiz et al., 1991).

During this period, the most popular program was a televised theater, called "teleteatro". This was a weekly two-hour program that broadcasted live plays and had the greatest names of Brazilian theater in the line up. Universally recognized theater plays such as Shakespeare's Othello, Hamlet and Macbeth, among others were part of the production repertoire (Ortiz et al., 1991). "TV de Vanguarda" was the prototype for this kind of program, it was offered by TV Tupi in 1952, and it was on the air until 1967 (Távola, 1996). The preoccupation with this form of high art program gave teleteatro the honor of being one of the most prestigious programs in Brazilian television during the 1950's. However, this generated a dichotomy between the directors and actors that came to television from the theater and cinema and the ones that came from the radio. Most producers and actors looked down on radio, which was not believed to be as sophisticated or prestigious as the theater. Therefore, the telenovela, by past association and origins on the radio, was considered a lesser form of entertainment (Távola, 1996).

During the 1960's, the number of TV sets in Brazil rose dramatically. Between 1960-1965 there was a 333% increase in the number of sets, and in 1966, 408 thousand units were sold, which was almost the same number sold during the last decade. Another contributor to the expansion of television was the introduction of new technologies such as the videotape, which allowed the stations to have greater geographical area coverage, including medium sized cities (Ortiz et al., 1991). The increase in advertising money coming in, in contrast to earlier years, was definitely a sign of the consolidation of the television as a mass medium. In 1958, only 8% of the total advertising money went to television, against 22% to radio and 42% to newspapers. In 1967, television had 42% of the publicity money, against 16% to radio and 15% to newspapers (Caparelli, 1982). The growing number of television audience translated the appeal of television to different social groups, as opposed to its elitist beginning.



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