In Brazil, TV Is Untouchable

     In Brazil, TV Is Untouchable

    We had a dramatic example
    of the incompetence of the Brazilian
    State in curbing the programming abuses practiced by commercial

    television. It represented a victory for trashy programming
    and showed an unwillingness to react to pressure groups. The

    media asks for credit as if it were a creditor, not a relapsing
    by: Alberto

    For the apocalyptic among us, the aftermath of the Hutton Report means that
    public TV will never be the same. Apocalyptic folks are usually nihilists
    and nihilists don’t like to roll up their sleeves and work on solutions.

    BBC was excessively penalized
    in the David Kelly suicide case, while the government of Tony Blair emerged
    unjustly immaculate. The lord magistrate made big mistakes, as we have plentifully
    seen on the media. But to ignore that BBC was arrogant is the attitude most
    likely to lead public journalism to an impasse with a deadly potential.

    Public television is expected
    to establish paradigms for the creation of accountability standards that can
    cause changes in the behavior of commercial networks. If public television
    forgets its pluralistic public commitment and assumes an engaged and radical
    stance, it ceases to be an alternative to become a clone of commercial TV.

    Public television is an
    alternative; in fact, it is the only alternative to counterweigh the voracity
    of the private media system. The fact that it has been put against the whipping
    post, as writer Mario Vargas Llosa put it, does not mean that it has actually
    been convicted. It is just fitting that responsible institutions should submit
    to public scrutiny.

    Private electronic media
    companies are the ones that abhor debate, refuse criticism, reject any form
    of inspection and sit on the Olympus above good and evil. They do that because
    they forget that they also are public. They are concessions of a collective
    national heritage administered by the State and they should pay for it with
    responsible action.

    To Be What Is

    Last week we had a dramatic
    example of the incompetence of the Brazilian State in curbing the programming
    abuses practiced by commercial television. On Wednesday (2/4), the Diário
    Oficial (Federal Daily Gazette) published a decision signed by the director
    of the Departamento de Classificação Indicativa (Rating
    Appointment Department) of the Justice Ministry in which several police shows
    were considered to be "not recommended for audiences younger than 21".
    Among them were two highly-rated shows: Cidade Alerta (Alert City)
    on the Record network, and Brasil Urgente, made by Bandeirantes—the
    other three, of the same genre, come from Fortaleza, capital of the state
    of Ceará.

    The information published
    on the following day, Thursday, in Folha de S. Paulo (page E8) highlighted
    the unprecedented nature of the decision and revealed that the Justice Ministry
    had been pressing TV networks to adapt to the demands. Given the generalized
    grudge against anything unprecedented and innovative in Brazil, a repeal of
    the measure made the news on Friday (front page story, with headline on page
    15, in O Globo). The director who had signed the decision was promptly
    fired because the new rating had not been submitted to his superiors—National
    Justice Secretary, Cláudia Chagas, and Justice Minister, Márcio
    Thomaz Bastos.

    The same O Globo
    story stated that Mozart Rodrigues da Silva, the punished officer, had held
    his position for four years. He was no neophyte, therefore, and knew very
    well what he was talking about, specially considering the unleashing of several
    forceful attempts by former Justice Minister, José Gregori, during
    the last administration, to promote a new general rating of showing times
    in order to comply with constitutional provisions.

    The same story disclosed
    that on the same day the Diário Oficial was published, the Justice
    Minister himself was visited in his office by a group of congressmen who are
    owners of broadcasting stations, among them "Bishop" Rodrigues (PL-RJ),
    a man notoriously involved with both the evangelical lobby and the electronic
    media lobby.

    The dismissed officer
    is supposed to return to his old job in the Ministry of Science and Technology.
    And here is where the government gets into complications:

    ** To sign a decision
    of this relevance without consulting your superiors is a serious fault. A
    serious fault is punished with prompt dismissal with no formalities—even
    at the government level—not with transfers.

    ** The government was
    obviously alarmed with the reaction from the congressmen (specially from one
    of the exponents of the vice-president’s party) but it also became scared
    with the possibility of exemplary and severe punishment turning on the skylights
    over something it did not want to discuss.

    ** On Thursday morning,
    the media companies supposed to be affected by the new rating informed all
    journalists interested in covering the developments in the Folha revelations
    that the government had decided to revoke the decision.

    It was, in fact, both
    revoked and hushed up. But the case is not closed as far as this Observatório
    da Imprensa is concerned. It is evidently clear that the government was
    preparing something drastic in terms of new ratings for show times—a
    strong claim of audiences all over Brazil, which already has the support of
    the large majority of PT congressmen. Also evident was the indecision on the
    part of the government in carrying the project forward.

    This indecision looks
    even more serious when we consider that the BNDES will be releasing its decision
    on the opening of a line of credit to media companies. Opinion polls indicate
    that Brazilians are willing to give the media industry this privilege, provided
    that it is offset by compensations of a social nature. In the case of television,
    these compensations basically mean an increase in the quality level of media

    In these circumstances,
    the slackening in the new rating measures is twice discouraging. It signals
    a victory for trashy programming and it lays bare an unwillingness to exercise
    the indispensable controls and to react to pressure groups who bet on the
    status quo. The media is now free to walk up to the windows of official
    credit, relieved of any concerns or obligations. As if it were a creditor,
    not a relapsing debtor.

    Quality Paradigm

    That’s where public television
    comes in. Brazil has two large public networks—TVE and Cultura—with
    a fabulous potential. Albeit independent, these two stations are convergent,
    specially in their willingness to fully exercise their social mission.

    A good portion of the
    public may find delight in Big Brother, but another appreciable portion
    thinks they deserve better. Why, then, should we benefit one group in detriment
    of the other? Where is our sense of justice and balance?

    TVE has just released
    the results of a seminar on the role of public television; TV Cultura is
    launching its new programming grid showing a special emphasis in journalism.
    Both are ready to meet the demand for quality public television and both are
    competent and willing to fulfill their alternative roles in a pluralistic

    Consensus on the quality
    of public radio and television is highly valued—we can find it even in
    an England torn in the dispute around the "heating up" of information
    on Saddam Hussein’s arsenals. This is a consensus that nihilists do not wish
    to see. This is a consensus that the public TV network in Brazil wishes to

    Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJOR—Laboratório
    de Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced Studies
    in Journalism) at UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and editor of the Observatório
    da Imprensa. He also writes a column on cultural issues for the Rio
    daily Jornal do Brasil. You can reach him by email at

    This article was
    originally published in Observatório da Imprensa —

    Translated by Tereza
    Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based
    in Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association.

    • Show Comments (0)

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    comment *

    • name *

    • email *

    • website *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


    You May Also Like

    Brazil and Tunisia Sign Accord on Higher Education

    The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, Abdelwahab Abdallah, and the Brazilian Minister of ...

    Brazilian President Condemns Vandalism in Congress

    The press office of Brazil’s Presidency released a note expressing solidarity and support for ...

    Brazil Calls EU Trade Commissioner Explanations in Hong Kong a Sham

    The third day of negotiations at the 6th Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade ...

    Lula Says There Will Be No Coverup of Corruption in Brazil

    Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, speaking at the IV Global Forum on ...

    Brazil: Confessed Killer of US Nun Says He Was Hired by Nun’s Friend

    In deposition that lasted four hours, Rayfran das Neves Sales, 28 years old, admitted ...

    Brazil and Poor at WTO Meeting Urge Rich Nations to End Farm Subsidies

    The Global Call to Action Against Poverty, the largest international alliance for the elimination ...

    Brazil Is Ready for Foreign Private Partners

    The challenges facing development cannot be overcome without public-private partnerships (PPPs). This is the ...

    Brazilian new-found oil

    Brazil New-Found Oil Will Fund Education and Anti-Poverty Programs

    The president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, announced today, August 31st, a ...

    Brazil Petrobras’s Production Grows 10% to 2.3 Million Barrels a Day

    Brazil’s state-owned Petrobras’s domestic production of petroleum and gas attained a daily average of ...

    Presidents Medici and Nixon in Washington

    Nixon Era and US and Brazilian Imperialism Still Very Present

    A set of documents published by George Washington University’s National Security Archive on August ...