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The Brazilian media system

Against this background we can begin to understand the media system in Brazil as the country moved towards democracy after almost three decades of military rule. The degree to which democracy develops within a society depends directly on the plurality and diversity of ideas and values circulating within it. It has been suggested that Brazilian telenovelas (soap operas) have had a important impact on shaping Brazilian society and identity in terms of creating a pan-national sentiment, while keeping the citizens entertained, a product which has found transnational audiences, being exported to more than 100 countries (Mattelart and Mattelart, 1990; Joyce, 2012; Straubhaar, 2012).

The media’s role in the public sphere and its accessibility, guaranteeing freedom of expression and the right to information are crucial to support democracy. Therefore, monitoring the level of media development in a country becomes a key component in monitoring the level of development of its democracy. The relationship between communication and democracy can be investigated using numerous approaches. In an era of profound transformation for liberal democracies, the limits and challenges of participation are some of the most important indicators of the health of democracy and public debate. Peter Dahlgren points out that democratic values and procedures are often overridden by economic values, thus limiting the space for effective political participation (Dahlgren, 2009: 6-7).

The primary objective of journalism has been defined as‘to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing’ (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2001: 17). These words, as McQuail has reminded us, carry a responsibility with them (McQuail, 2003), which media organizations and professionals should adopt in order to moderate the power they wield over their audience and society at large. Keeping track of how this responsibility is met is at the core of accountability practices (McQuail, 2003; Paulino, 2009; Fengler et al., 2014).

With regard to the prominent role mass media play in modern societies, a growing number of media scholars, over the past few decades, have emphasized the urgent need to hold this media accountable (see for example, Curran, 2002; Waisbord, 2013; Vincent and Nordenstreng, 2016). This sentiment has been echoed by concerned media professionals and discussed worldwide in cases like the 2012 News of the World scandal in Britain. Observers agree that the quality of the media has to be monitored due to its unique role in democratic societies (McQuail, 1992; Schudson, 2018).They create a public sphere, where controversial arguments regarding political (and other) matters can be exchanged and acted upon by authorities.

The lack of an independent regulatory body for broadcasting services means Brazil did not have a centralized collection of data on the media sector, so information is not always accurate or robust. It was only in 2012 when the Ministry of Communications began to report data. Anatel (Agenda National de Telecontunicafoes — the National Agency of Telecommunications), the institution responsible for technical regulation, does have a grant system but the information thus provided is not always reliable or necessarily credible.

The main institutions in Brazil for the collection and organization of statistical data also do not have a history of covering communication. In 2010, the Institute for

Applied Economic Research (IPEA) established the ‘Panorama of Communication and Telecommunications in Brazil’ in partnership with Socicom (the Brazilian Federation of Scientific and Academic Associations of Communication). The same year marked another important effort to organize information on the media in Brazil using UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators. A group of specialists from UNESCO, Coletivo Intervozes, the Laboratory of Communication Policies of the University of Brasilia, the Nucleus ofTransdisciplinary Studies on Communication and Conscience of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and the National Network of Press Observatories RENOI) collected and reported data on Brazilian media (Barbosa et al., 2017). Some data is available from the private sector, in particular, on the Internet, data which is organized systematically and can be used for research, for example, by the Study Centre on Information Technology and Communication (Cetic.br), in conjunction with CGI.br, the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee.

In Brazil, the media system has economic strengths arising from the commercial sector, which has been successfully growing since the 1960s, but the weakness is that this development has occurred without a regulatory body to guarantee pluralism and diversity and without stimulus to the operation of Public Service Media. This economic strength arises from an almost universal system of commercial television and radio broadcasting, which generates a considerable amount of revenue. Even though newspapers, including major ones such as O Estado de S. Paulo, Folha de S. Paulo and O Globo, do not share this same economic strength (though the latter is part of the Rede Globo group - Brazil’s biggest and one of the world’s leading media conglomerates), they have benefited from a broader consumer market until the political crisis of recent years.

Of the more than 500 television channels on air, around 80 per cent are connected to large media conglomerates. In terms of audiences and advertising revenue, the four largest broadcasters - TV Globo, SBT, Record and Band -total more than 70 per cent and 90 per cent of the market share, respectively. In reality, the private media power was directly responsible for stimulating a group of networks out of partnerships with large national media groups and state political and economic groups. Around a third of the members of the Brazilian National Congress have some kind of connection to television and radio broadcasters, whether directly or indirectly. In addition to television, in 2018 there are nearly 4,600 community radio stations operating under license, while another 20,000 were still awaiting theirs. (Barbosa et al., 2017). Public commercial, community and state channels are only available for those who can afford pay TV. The Brazilian Telecommunications Code has not been updated in a long time, while most articles of the country’s Constitution dealing with Social Communication have not yet been implemented. Pluralism and diversity, which are important reference points for communication systems in many countries, are not covered by legislation in Brazil and are practically ignored as public policies. There is no legislation making the state responsible for strengthening and operating small circulation media outlets or public and community ones.

 
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