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Dominating Lusophone transnational popular culture

The Portuguese empire, along with the Spanish, were the original empires on which the sun never set, leaving a legacy of countries who still speak Portuguese or Spanish, shaped by those colonial histories and cultures, and often very interested in new cultural producers who spoke those languages and reflected those shared heritages. The Portuguese moved first along the African coasts in the fifteenth century, creating lasting imprints in Guinea Bissau, Cabo Verde, Angola and Mozambique (Russell-Wood, 1998). In 1500 they landed in Brazil, soon after in India, maintaining a colony in Goa into the twentieth century.Then they colonized parts of Southeast Asia, leaving a Portuguese-speaking colony in East Timor that would break away from Indonesia in 1999, and Macao, which became part of China in 1999. In other places they were dispossessed of their colonies by the Dutch or English early enough so that little lasting influence remains (Russell-Wood, 1998). The empire began to transform when the Portuguese emperor’s son stayed in Brazil and declared it independent in 1822, while most of the other colonies did not become independent until after World War II, mostly in the 1970s after the fall of the Salazar dictatorship in Portugal in 1974.

Brazil had already had considerable economic and cultural development, including thriving music, film, publishing and television industries, while the African colonies of Portugal were still struggling for independence, which many

Brazilians actively supported. In the 1940s and 1950s, Portugal actually promoted the example of Brazil in its African colonies, as a sort of successful Luso-Tropicalism, showing how Portugal was a beneficent colonial power that helped development (Davis et al., 2016). However, Portugal had not encouraged much media development in its empire. Local or native print media were forbidden in Brazil until the Portuguese court arrived there in 1808, fleeing an invasion by Napoleon. In other colonies, it was developed only by and for the religious or colonial authorities (ibid.). Brazilian music, magazines and television had a fairly open field to move not only into the former Portuguese colonies in and near Africa, but also into Portugal itself, establishing Brazil’s area of almost dominant soft power, in the Lusophone cultural linguistic space. Portugal has tried hard to regain primacy in this space in television with a special branch of its public television aimed at Africa, with magazines aimed at the Lusophone world.

Brazil had begun to be present in the music and magazine spaces in Portugal, too, as the Lusophone cultural space evolved. They became even more dominant in television (Sinclair and Straubhaar, 2013; Davis et al., 2016). Not long after TV Globo exported O Bern Amado to Latin America in 1975, it exported its next big hit, Gabriela (1976), adapted from an already internationally well-known novel popular in the Lusophone world, to Portugal, where it was broadcast by the public television channel, RTP. According to Isabel Ferrin Cunha, it was a smash hit in Portugal. Stores, restaurants and even the national legislature would stop, so everyone could watch it (Cunha, 2011).

After the deregulation of TV in Portugal in 1991, removing a monopoly for public television and allowing private competition (Traquina, 1995), the Brazilian network TV Globo entered the market as a partner in the first private television network, SIC. This was an enormous expansion of Brazilian soft power into its former colonial authority, as SIC became the most highly rated station, a source of both revenue and prestige for TV Globo and Brazil (Cunha, 1977).To some degree, SIC was also an extension of the US commercial model, as part of a larger wave of deregulation and privatization across Europe and much of the globe. However, there is an ongoing tension with nationalizing, localizing forces, so that markets once dominated by a major cultural linguistic space producer, like Brazil in Portugal, might gradually increase its own production and substitute it for what had been imported.There is an increasing tendency toward co-production, script and format sales instead of direct, finished programme sales and flows in worldwide television trade. We can see an example of that between Globo and SIC Portugal, of which TV Globo has been a part owner since its beginning in the 1980s.This has included the creation of Portuguese adaptations of several classic telenovelas, including the 1976 hit Dancing Days, recently remade in Portugal.

Starting in the 1980s, TV Globo also began exporting television, particularly telenovelas, to Africa.The first was O Bent Amado, which had been the first export to Latin America as well. The import of telenovelas from Brazil became very visible on screens in Lusophone Africa and seems to have had considerable impact in Africa. On the author’s first visit to Mozambique, in 1992, I noticed that people talked a lot about the telenovelas. Quite a few children, streets and markets were named after Globo telenovela characters or towns. In a 1996 visit, which gave me more opportunity to speak to television industry directors, telenovelas were deeply ingrained in the schedule ofTVM (TV Mozambique) and were very popular, according to the television professionals, as well as the regular audience members I spoke to. People talked about how you could see the impact of the Brazilian accent in the way that the Portuguese language was spoken in Mozambique, as well as in fashions and popular culture.

Brazil’s direct soft power in Lusophone countries may be declining. It seems like there is some degree of searching for greater telenovela proximity within Lusofonia. Portugal is adapting Brazilian scripts to bring the resulting production closer to its reality. Portuguese telenovela exports to Africa have also been increasing since 2000, by RTP International, TVI, SIC. A Portugal telenovela co-production with Angola has been very successful, also generating huge social media reactions (Davis et rt/., 2016).

Another interesting factor in the larger picture of Brazilian influence in Portugal and Africa is the expansion into these areas by Rede Record, now the number two network in Brazil, owned and operated by the Universal Church of the Reign of God. Their strategy integrates stations and networks owned by the church in developing nations, plus Portugal, and channels aimed at their members plus the Brazilian diaspora. The number two network in Mozambique is also owned by Rede Record and the Universal Church of the Reign of God (Straubhaar, 2014).

World exporter in deregulatory times and the satellite era

In the 1980s and 1990s Brazilian and Mexican telenovelas expanded into the larger world market, beyond the Latin America and the Lusophone world. In 1985,10 per cent ofTV Globo’s income came from exports. In 1986, it was exporting its products to 130 countries. The number of Brazilian television exports increased further in the 1990s (de Melo, 1995). Brazil, particularly TV Globo, expanded into a rapidly growing global marketplace for television programmes, linked to the 1990s’waves of deregulation and privatization (Noam and Pogorel, 1994; Nanjundaiah, 1995; Traquina, 1995). This opened up spaces for new commercial television networks and privatized some existing public stations into private ones, which often then looked for more commercially-oriented, entertainment programming. The market for programmes grew further in those years with new direct broadcast satellites, which needed more programming.

Brazilian television expanded into a number of countries, including some that preferred to import television from other developing countries. For example, Escrava Isaura (1976), a telenovela about a story about a white woman mistakenly enslaved in the nineteenth century, was hugely popular in Russia, China, Poland and Cuba (Marques de Melo, 2010). But for a time in the 1990s, telenovelas, including Escrava Isaura, were also popular in Italy, France and other parts of Western Europe (ibid.).

 
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