2013 ICA - Television, popular culture and identity
2013 ICA London conference“Television, popular culture and the LatinAmerican and Brazilian identity”Dr. Carolina MatosGovernment DepartmentUniversity of Essex
Key points• Overview of Media and politics in Latin America: globalization,democracy and identity (I.B. Tauris, 2012)• Empirical methods and survey with students• Brazilian culture as hybrid: cultural globalization and the nationalidentity• Latin American broadcasting and commercial Brazilian television• TV Globo and the history of Brazilian commercial TV• Soap operas and the construction of national identity• The “public” versus “private” dichotomy• Audience’s media consumption habits and responses to the publicmedia• Public media formats: from TV Cultura to TV Brasil• Brazilian commercial and public television: facts and figures• Quotes from interviews
Parts of Media and politics in Latin America• Frameworks of comparison for public service media• Public communications and regulation in Latin America• European public service broadcasting revisited• Journalism for the public interest: the crisis of civic communicationsand journalism in Latin America• Television, entertainment and the public interest• Audience perceptions of quality programming and the public media• Television, popular culture and Latin America and Brazilian identity• Internet for the public interest• Political cynicism and the digital divide• Mediated politics in the 2010 Brazilian elections• Media democratisation in Latin America: towards a politics fornational development
Four lines of research inquiry in Media and politicsin Latin America (IB Tauris, 2012)• An evaluation of the historical evolution and the publicbroadcasting tradition of countries like the UK andBrazil;• The relationship established between the public mediawith the state, public sphere and the public interest;• The debates on what constitutes ‘quality’ programmingand information in both the private and public media;• An examination of the ‘crisis’ of civic forms ofcommunication, and how they can still be relevant.
Brazilian culture as hybrid: culturalglobalization and the national identity• Since its origins, Brazil has been multiracial and has been supportedon the interplay of cultures and on racial miscegenation. It has beenclassified by Lauerhass Jr. (2006, 6) as ‘a Creole variant of aEuropean (Portuguese) culture’. Thus cultural mixing and mestizaje,which refers to the racial mixture of African, European andindigenous peoples throughout Latin America, has characterised thewhole formation of the continent’s multiple identities.• Lesser (1999) further argued how different ethnic groups in Brazil,such as the Syrians, Lebanese and Japanese, have succeeded inchallenging previous elite notions of Brazilianness, equated withEuropeanness and ‘whiteness’, thus permitting a more fluid identity.• As Lesser (1999, 5) notes, mesticagem became to be understood asa joining rather than mixing of identities, thus emphasising ‘thecreation of a multiplicity of hyphenated Brazilians rather than asingle....one.’
Latin American broadcasting has adoptedUS model• TV in many Latin American countries has developedfollowing the US commercial model• I.e. Development of Brazilian television by military plannersin the 60’s onwards contributed for the formation of whatStraubhaar (2001; 138) has defined as the “nationalizingvocation”• It has also assisted in the creation of a consumer cultureand a wider engagement of Brazilians in the marketeconomy.• Television has taken on a central role in political life, in thecountry’s democratisation process and in the constructionof various identities.• It is possible to say that in this sense TV Globo carries someresemblance with the role played by the BBC in the UK.
Latin American broadcasting and Braziliancommercial television• Various studies have dissected the close ties established between TVGlobo in its early years with the dictatorship (i.e. Straubhaar, 2001; Fox,1997). The military government was seen as having beeninterventionist in the media during the dictatorship years, financingmicrowave, satellite and other aspects of TV infra-structure, andfavouring in particular TV Globo.• TV Globo from Brazil is considered one of the most powerful anddynamic actors in today’s global connections (Waisbord, 1995)alongside Mexico’s Televisa. Both Globo, with annual revenue of US$1.9 billion, and its Mexican counterpart, Televisa, with US$ 1.4 billion,could fall within the range of the ‘Top 25 Media Groups’ of 1997, asthey were ranked by the trade journal Broadcasting and Cable (Higginsand McClellan, 1997, quoted in Sinclair, 1999, 74).• TV Globo and Televisa have managed to emerge nonetheless as thetwo largest broadcasters located outside of the developed world whichoffer global competition to the established Northern players.
Commercial television and nationalidentity• Sinclair (1999, 77) has underlined how Globo and Televisa combine bothhorizontal and vertical integration and that, in conjunction with thetraditional family style of ownership, they have conformed to the idealtype of what can be understood as the ‘Latin American’ model of a mediacorporation.• As Voltmer and Schmitt-Beck (2006, 231) asserted, the excessivecommercialisation of the media in Latin America’s new democracies, whichhas also been influenced by the heavy entertainment diet provided bycommercial broadcasting, can be seen as having constituted an obstacle inthe process of institution-building and successful democratic consolidationin the continent (Skidmore, 1993; Waisbord, 1995 in Voltmer and Schmitt-Beck, 2006).• Television to start with has occupied a central role in political life, in thecountry’s democratization process and in the construction of variousidentities.• The power of the medium of television in setting standards of conduct,influencing lifestyles, selling products and ideas and shaping behavioursand identities should not be underestimated. This is one of the reasons forthe initiatives and pressures to strengthen the public media.
TV Globo and the history of Brazilian commercial TV• As Guedes-Bailey and Jambeiro Barbosa (2008, 50) have pointedout, it was radio broadcasting, through the success of stations suchas Radio Nacional, the most important radio station in Latin Americafor about 15 years, that established crucial patterns for the TVindustry in Brazil.• This included current characteristics associated to the Braziliancommercial television industry, such as the pursuit of a massaudience, the predominance of entertainment over educational orcultural programming and of private over public ownership, as wellas advertising support over government, public over non-commercial financing (Guedes-Bailey and Jambeiro Barbosa, 2008;50).• As Possebon (2006) affirms, according to the Pesquisa Nacional deAmostragem de Domicilios of the 2005 IBGE census, 91.4% ofBrazilian homes have television, with the channels TV Globo and SBTreaching more than 95% of homes.
Brazilian commercial television andnational identity• The Brazilian military also invested heavily in telecommunication infra-structure, which was among the fastest sector in the economy. AsStraubhaar (2001) affirms, the military government supported Globo asa quasi-monopoly until the late 1970s.• It was only in 1981 that the government issued license packages tocreate competitors SBT and TV Manchete (Straubhaar, 2001, 140-143).From mainly that year onwards, the Brazilian importation of Americanprogramming began to fall. Prime time began to be filled with Brazilianproductions. Nonetheless, the aesthetic of entertainment and theprivileging of American programming had already began to prevail.• Commercial television in Brazil has had a major role in selling not onlycultural goods and ideas, but in shaping lifestyle and consumerismhabits and behaviours of large sectors of the population independentlyof class, ethnicity and race.• It has also played a significant role in defining national politics and inobstructing, as well as contradictorily assisting, in the construction ofthe democratization project following the end of the dictatorship in1985 (Matos, 2008; Bucci, 2001; Conti, 1999).
Television and national identity inBrazil• According to the study “Os Donos da Midia” (Owners of the Media)done by the Instituto de Estudos e Pesquisa em Comunicacao(Epcom) of 2002, Globo Organisations has 32 concessions ofcommercial TV, 11 in Sao Paulo and 113 affiliated stations in thecountry. It obtains 54% of audience numbers and of nationaladvertising resources (R$ 1.59 billion in 2002), whereas SBT has 10stations and 100 affiliates.• Former director of journalism of TV Cultura, Gabriel Priolli, presidentof the Brazilian Association of University TVs (ABTV), has arguedthat Brazilian commercial television has played a powerful role inthe diffusion of the national Brazilian sentiment, largely identifiedwith the white Rio and Sao Paulo elites.• TV Globo’s telenovelas have undoubtedly also had a large role in thebuilding of this unifying national identity. Many have argued that ahighly commercial entertainment and advertising diet hasencouraged the development of a particular individualistic andconsumerist personality.
TV Globo and its role in democratization• TV Globo has the largest percentage of national content production incomparison to its competitors, including an average of 70% and 100%during peak time (Possebon, 2007, 289).• Due to TV Globo’s relationship with the dictatorship regime in its earlyyears, there has been controversies in regards to the role that thestation’s soap-operas have played in providing avenues for politicalliberalisation during the 1980s (Porto, 2008; Straubhaar, 1988).• Straubhaar (1988) has argued that Brazilian soaps contributed to delaysupport for political opening, whereas Porto (2008, 10) points to theambiguity of the telenovelas’ texts.• Porto (2008) correctly believes that there is (and has been) a role fortelevision fiction in the process of nation-building• Porto (2008) argues that they helped to give meaning and to shape thepolitical process by incorporating new demands coming from a moreorganised civil society. He underlined the work of authors such as DiasGomes, and soaps like O Bem Amado (The Well Loved, 1973) and RoqueSanteiro (1985), as being emblematic of such actions.
TV Globo and its role in democratization• TV Globo’s wider commitment to representing balanced political debatehas grown as a response to the critiques that it received in relation to itscoverage of the key presidential elections of the post-dictatorship phase(i.e. Bucci, 2000; Skidmore, 1993; Fox, 1997).• From the mid-1990s onwards, it started to be pressured to improve itsjournalism and balance criteria, at the same time that it began to sufferfrom competition posed by other television stations, cable TV and theInternet.• Many sectors of the Brazilian audience continue to rate soaps highly,including them among their favourite programming, alongside JornalNacional. TV Globo on the other hand has also tried to respond better tocriticism, and has began also to market itself as producing culture.• This is evident in its more recent slogan, “Cultura, a gente se ve por ai”(Culture: we will see each other around).• With an average of 40 points daily nonetheless, Globo’s Jornal Nacionalis still the highest audience rating in Brazilian TV (Meditsch, Moreira andMachado, 2005).
TV Globo’s popular programmes and theemergence of a new competitive market• TV Globo’s popularity has however been in decline. In April 2010, thestation registered the lowest average audience rating in a decade, of 16.8points per day. Ibope also detected a decline of interest in opentelevision in general, attributing this to various reasons including thetype of programming, growth of the Internet, access to DVDs as well ascompetition from other leisure activities.• Although commercial television is still the main source of informationfor most of the population, many journalists, academics, civil societyplayers and others from the cultural elites have become highlydissatisfied with it since the mid-1990s.• The current contemporary reality is more grounded on the need to servethe country’s multiple public spheres and identities, which is somethingthat both “public” television as well as commercial television is slowlybeginning to do more• The opposition between public and commercial media is grounded, asLivingstone and Lunt (1994, 22- 23) stress, on elitist and participatoryforms of democracy. According to the authors, it wrongly equatescommercialization with an emancipatory rhetoric and the illusion ofinvolvement. Neither model permits the full realization of a criticalpublic sphere.
The ‘private’ versus ‘public’ dichotomy inbroadcastingPrivate PublicRight/Conservative/Centre/Left – theconsumerCentre/Left/Liberal/some conservatives -citizen‘Objective’ and informational journalism ‘Objective’/’public’/’serious’ journalismTalk shows/sit-coms/reality TV –American programming, some contentfrom other countriesRealism in films/documentaries/realityTV – ‘arty’ and European programming,some US materialAdvertising/aesthetic of consumerism –self/intimacy/the private sphere (i.e. Sci-fi, horror)‘Quality’ aesthetic/Challenging material- collective/the public sphereDreamy/fantasy/’escapism’ texts –occasional ‘serious’ materialHistorical material/in depth analyses –some entertainment (i.e. Soaps, drama,sci-fi, horror).
Audience’s media consumption habits and responses tothe public media• Various sectors of the audiences in Brazil do envision a morerobust role for public television stations like TV Cultura and TVBrasil in nation-building, functioning as a counter-weight to themarket and posing quality and positive competition to commercialstations like TV Globo.• The UFRJ online survey showed how most students claimed thatthey watched television on a daily basis (76 respondents or 51%)or on average 3 to 4 times a week (17% to 6% respectively).• The online questionnaire was applied at the Journalism Departmentof UFRJ and was answered by 149 students from various socio-economic backgrounds. The questionnaire was put online duringthe holiday and initial start of term period, from mid-July to thebeginning of September 2010.• Practically all respondents are university students or youngjournalists between 18 and 25 years of age (92% of 149), aremembers of the low, middle and upper classes of Brazilian societyand live in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
Audience’s media consumption habits andresponses to the public media• A dominant pattern that emerged from the answers was that thepenetration of public television is still very small, given the littleamount of attention that it receives from the respondents, whomainly watch Globo TV and cable and satellite television. Althoughthere is still lack of knowledge and understanding of the purposes ofthe public media, a significant 71% are defenders of it and recogniseits importance.• Among other reasons stated for watching television included to be‘up to date with information’ (12% or 18); ‘professional reasons’(10% or 15) as well as ‘to know about the situation of the country’(1%).• Most respondents revealed that their preferred programmingconsisted of news, soap operas, films and series, both national andAmerican. Asked about their preferred television genre, most choseTV Series (56 respondents or 38%) and the general option, Arts andEntertainment (43 or 29%), with smaller numbers for Documentaries(12 or 8%), Soap-opera (9 or 6%) and Comedy (5 or 3%).
Audience’s consumption of ‘private’ and ‘public’media• The option ‘soap opera’ did not score highly as one would think at first.This can be largely due to the fact that TV Globo’s audience viewing is indecline due to the competition from other channels, the Internet andalso the saturation of some of its programmes with especially moredemanding viewers. It also might be the case that many in fact do watchsoaps, but given other options of entertainment programming, theychose series and documentaries.• The results showed how most like both entertainment and news anddocumentaries, with 52% (or 77) saying that they liked both. Thebalance is tipped slightly more towards entertainment, which received32% (or 48), whereas news got 13% (or 20).• Commercial television appeared as the main source of information for87% (129 respondents). Only 13% claimed that it was not their primesource. Most students also like to read newspapers (104 or 70%) andonline news sites (129 or 87%), with only 11 respondents, or 7%, sayingthat they also obtain their information from both the public andcommercial media. In terms of which television station they watch, andif they prefer public to commercial TV, most respondents said that theywatched TV Globo (97 respondents or 65%) and cable and satellite (99or 66%).
Audience’s consumption of ‘private’ and‘public’ media• Only 3% (4) chose the public media option and a slightly highernumber opted for the Brazilian public station options, TV Brasil (8 or5%) and TV Cultura (8 or 5%). These received similar percentages tothe small open commercial television stations, TV Record (7 or 5%)and Rede TV! (4 or 3%). Channels Bandeirantes and SBT appeared ina middle position, with 25 or 17% for the former and 18 or 18% forthe latter.• The responses for favourite TV programmes were however quitevaried. A popular TV choice was TV Globo’s Jornal Nacional (38 or25%). The option of the 8 o’clock soap opera appeared with 13%(20), although in the previous question concerning television genres,only 6% chose soaps. Forty-seven per cent (47%) chose otherprogrammes which were not included in the list.• Among the preferred programmes freely listed by the respondentswere films, popular national programmes or American series.
Key trends in audience viewing andconsumption of Brazilian media• The UFRJ survey also highlighted how audiences give importance toquality programming. In regards to the question on what attractedtheir attention to TV, the predominant answer was ‘the quality of aprogramme’ (58% or 86) and in second place was ‘information’ (22%or 33).• Such answers endorse the fact that television, be it in the UK or inBrazil, is expected by viewers to be both entertaining andinformative, whilst at the same time also offering qualityprogramming.• In regards to issues concerning the ‘quality’ of television, manyshowed a similar understanding to the general outline discussedabove. Most chose the options ‘the script and the in depthinformation provided’ (53%, or 79) as well as the ‘creativity andoriginality’ of the programme (27% or 40). The professionalism ofthe journalists and actors, and the type of language used, received8% , or 12, and 7%, or 10 answers, respectively.
Key trends in audience viewing andconsumption of Brazilian media• Most also recognised the importance of the role of the publicmedia (71%). Although a majority of the respondents of the surveydid show a lack of interest in watching the public television stations,a significant 71% of 149 people defended its necessity.• Another 26% however preferred the option ‘it depends.’ This seemsto signal to the fact that many do in fact not understand what thepublic media is actually for, and would like to have moreinformation about it.• This interpretation is confirmed by the answers in another questionasked afterwards, which is ‘why’ are you in favour of it. Here themain option selected was ‘I would like to know more about it’ inorder to make a better judgement (33% or 49). Most do assign arole for the public media, seeing it as being a compliment to thecommercial media (38%, or 57) and/or a correction of market failure(20% or 30).• Contradicting what one would at first expect, not everyoneautomatically saw the public media as necessarily more capable ofbeing impartial. There was little consensus here.
What role should be reserved for the publicmedia?• The responses varied significantly in this category from the oneswho choose newspapers, to those who opted for the foreign media,the Internet and the public media. Forty-eight (48%) saw theInternet as having the capacity of being more impartial, with thepublic media coming in second with 15%. Newspapers received 6%(9), commercial TV 5% (8) and foreign media 2% (3). Many chose toinclude comments in the space provided.• Another wrote that it is ‘not the media vehicle, but the integrity ofthe journalist’; whilst another affirmed that the public media only‘engages in spectacles.’ Another student claimed that television andradio as mediums had the potential of being more impartial due totheir wider reach.• The respondents were divided in the question concerning thefunctions and purposes of the public media. Most opted for answerswhich can be interpreted as seeing civic communications as having arole in democratization.
Public media formats: from TV Cultura to TVBrasil• TV Brasil, which is part of the public media platform EmpresaBrasileira de Comunicacao (EBC), was launched by the Ministry ofCulture and the Brazilian government in December 2008. The totalfunding for EBC includes money from the federal government aswell as donations.• According to the former minister of Communications, FranklinMartins, the new channel received a budget of R$ 350 million. Themain programming is provided by Rio’s educational television (TVE),with two programmes from Radiobras.• The current Brazilian TV market, which is funded with publicresources, includes the television stations TV Cultura, which has anannual budget of R$ 160 million; Radiobras, with R$ 100 million;TVE, which had R$ 35 million in 2004, and which has beenincorporated into TV Brasil. There are also other resources which goto the television stations of the Legislative federal, state andmunicipal powers, plus TV Justica and university channels(Possebon, 2007, 290), all of which have a low audience rating.
TV Brasil: facts and figures• According to Abepec (Brazilian Association of Public Educational andCultural Stations), with less than two years of its existence, TV Brasil iswatched regularly by 10% of the population and has 80% of theaudiences’ approval.• Twenty-two per cent considered the programming excellent, and 58%classified it as ‘good’. The research was conducted during the 18thand22ndof August 2009, with 5.192 people being interviewed throughoutBrazil. One of the most popular programmes of the station is NovaAfrica (New Africa).• Perhaps where the public media is differing most also from thecommercial stations is in regards to the production of distinctivecultural and historical programmes, like TV Brasil’s Almanaque Brasil,Sustentaculos and Brasilianas.org.• The journalism staff at TV Brasil has been built around largelyprofessional norms. It includes names of professionals who worked forthe mainstream media, such as the current president of EBC, TerezaCruvinel, former O Globo columnist. Among the most popular showsbroadcast by TV Brasil is the cultural De La Para Ca, a programme ofinterviews presented by former Globo columnist Ancelmo Gois.
Quotes from interviews• According to Gabriel Priolli, former director of journalism forTV Cultura, the notion of a ‘public television’ in Brazil is still faraway from being fully implemented:• “The government of Sao Paulo was worried about expandingaudience numbers at TV Cultura. There is an elitist view ofculture….. and there was also a sense of having to satisfy thegovernment for the liberation of funds. There are differentvisions in regards to the public media, in Sao Paulo, in relationto the federal view. TV Brasil has a wider preoccupation withindependent programming, but TV Cultura has gone in theopposite direction….The fact of the matter is that the publicmedia does not exist in Brazil. Public TV is more an idea…Whatexists in Brazil is educational TVs controlled by the state”
Quotes from interviews• Former TV Globo correspondent and professor, Antonio Brasil,stated that:“All the channels are stations dressed up as ‘public’ mediastations. We cannot even guarantee education and quality publichealth. This ‘public media’ is nothing more than a vanity affair whichconsumes millions of reais and guarantees good jobs for the friendof the friend. The public ignores its programming and continues towatch soap operas and football. Television should not be a priorityof government. The interests of governments dictate their destinyand the public do not show interest in maintaining these mediums.Thus we adore to speak well and bad of the public media, but thento watch the commercial one...There is no ‘real’ interest of thegovernment….of confronting Globo.......The BBC for instance isexcellent for the British, but the model does not apply to LatinAmerica. The governments of the region would not be prepared tolive with the power and independence of the BBC......”
Some conclusions• The UFRJ student survey underlined for instance how most still havea habit of watching commercial television, TV Globo and satelliteand cable TV, but nonetheless do have a genuine interest in thepublic media and see it as an important tool for democracy and forraising public debate and quality standards.• Some of the key challenges facing public television stations like TVCultura and TV Brasil in Brazil concern their lack of full editorialindependence from politicians and from government, aconsequence of the impact of political influence which exists at bothstations, as well as the tradition that exists in Brazil ofunderstanding “public” media more as a vehicle of the state.• The breaking of the historical tradition of promiscuous relationshipsestablished between the public media and specific political groupsin Brazil, as well as the investments in innovative programmingcapable of creating a medium which offers positive qualitycompetition to the market media, are some of the challenges in theproject of strengthening the public media and skewing it to thepublic interest.
Selected bibliography• Barbosa, Livia Neves de H. (1995) “The Brazilian Jeitinho: an Exercise inNational Identity” in Hess, David J. and DaMatta, Roberto (eds.) TheBrazilian Puzzle, New York: Columbia University Press, 35- 47• Canizalez, Andres and Lugo-Ocando, Jairo (2008) “Beyond National MediaSystems: A Media for Latin America and the Struggle for Integration” inThe Media in Latin America, Berkshire: Open University Press, 209-223• Daniel, G. Reginald (2006) “Eurocentrism – Racial Formation and theMaster Racial Project” in Race and Multiraciality in Brazil and the UnitedStates: Converging Paths?, University Park: Pennsylnavia State UniversityPress, 9-51• Matos, C (2012) Media and politics in Latin America: globalization,democracy and identity, London: I.B Tauris• Porto, Mauro (2008) “Telenovelas and National Identity in Brazil”, paperpresented at the IX International Congress of BRASA, New Orleans, US,March 27-29• Straubhaar, Joseph (2007) “Making Sense of World Television:Hybridization or Multilayered Cultural Identities” in World Television:From Global to Local, London: Sage, 221-257
Thank you!• Dr. Carolina Matos• Government Department• University of Essex• E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org• http://essex.academia.edu/CarolinaMatos