Brazil has one
of the world's largest and most productive commercial television
systems. Its biggest television network, TV Globo, is the fourth
largest commercial network in the world. Brazil is also one of the
largest television exporters within Latin America and around the
world, particularly of telenovelas, the characteristic Latin
American prime time serials, which have become popular in a many
television began in 1950, it remained urban and elitist. Sets were
expensive, programs were broadcast live, and transmitters covered
only major centers. As in many other settings, that era of early
television produced quite a bit of classic drama, and during this
period local traditions in variety, news, drama and telenovelas
were established. The advent of videotape around 1960 opened Brazil
to imported programs. Again, typical of countries then developing
their television systems, the imports dominated programming for
much of the decade, but their presence also stimulated some efforts
at creating local networks. Two major early networks, TV Tupi and
TV Excelsior, operated at that time.
a truly mass medium in Brazil earlier than in most developing countries.
The military governments which took power in 1964 saw televisual
communication as a potential tool for creating a stronger national
identity, creating a broader consumer economy, and controlling political
information. The military pushed television deeper into the population
by subsidizing credit for set sales, by building national microwave
and satellite distribution systems, and by promoting the growth
of one network they chose as a privileged partner. TV Globo, which
also started in 1964, created the first true national network by
the late 1960s. Censorship of news was extensive under the military
governments between 1966 and 1978, but they also encouraged national
television program production. In the early 1970s, several government
ministers pushed the commercial networks hard to develop more Brazilian
programming and reduce reliance on imported programs, particularly
those that contained violence.
The 1960s represented
a formative period for genre development. Brazilian telenovelas
had largely been patterned after those in other Latin American countries,
even using imported scripts, but during these years they were developed
into a considerably more sophisticated genre by TV Excelsior in
São Paulo and TV Globo in Rio. A key turning point was the 1968
telenovela, Beto Rockefeller, a well-produced story
reflecting a singular Brazilian personality, the Rio good-lifer
or boa vida. By the 1970s, telenovelas were the most
popular programs and dominated prime time on the major networks,
TV Globo and TV Tupi. TV Globo, in particular, began to attract
major writers and actors from both film and theater to also work
in telenovelas. The Brazilian telenovelas became good
enough, as commercial television entertainment, to be exported throughout
Latin America and into Europe, Asia and Africa.
genre of the 1960s was the show de auditório, a live
variety show mixing games, quizzes, amateur and professional entertainers,
comedy, and discussion. The shows de auditório have been
extremely popular with the lower-middle and lower-classes, and,
according to analyses such as Sérgio Miceli's 1972 A Noite da
Madrinha (Evening with the Godmother), played an extremely important
role in drawing them into television viewing.
The years 1968
to 1985 constitute Brazilian television's second phase. In this
period TV Globo dominated both the audience and the development
of television programming. It tended to have a 60-80% share of the
viewers in the major cities at any given time. TV Globo was accused
during this period of representing the view of the government, of
being its mouthpiece. Other broadcast television networks found
themselves pursuing smaller, more specific audience segments largely
defined by social class. SBS (Sílvio Santos) targeted a lower middle
class, working class and poor audience, mostly with variety and
game shows. The strategy gained it a consistent second place in
ratings in most of the 1980s and 1990s. TV Manchete targeted a more
elite audience initially, with news, high budget telenovelas,
and imported programs, but found the segment too small to gain adequate
advertiser support. TV Bandeirantes tended to emphasize news, public
affairs and sports. All three ultimately wished to pursue a general
audience with general appeal programming, such as telenovelas,
but generally discovered that such efforts still did not gain an
audience sufficient to pay for the increased programming costs.
since 1985 has gone through a third phase, marked by its role in
the transition to a new civilian republic. In 1984, TV Globo initially
supported the military government against a campaign for direct
election of a civilian government, while other media, including
other television networks, many radio stations, and most of the
major newspapers supported the change. Perceiving that it might
literally lose its audience to the competition, Globo switched sides
and supported transition to a civilian regime, which was indirectly
elected in a compromise situation. The new political circumstances
immediately reduced political censorship and pressure on broadcasters.
The fourth phase
of Brazilian television has been its internationalization. The importation
of television programs into Brazil declined from the 1970s through
the 1980s, as Brazilian networks produced more of their own material.
TV Globo often filled 12-14 hours a day with indigenous productions.
TV Globo and other networks also began to export programs, particularly
telenovelas, and Brazilian exports of programming to the
rest of the world soon became economically and culturally significant.
Brazilian exports reached over a hundred countries and the programs
have often proved great international successes. This is particularly
the case with historical telenovelas such as A Escrava
Isaura (Isaura the Slave), about the abolition of slavery in
Brazil, a hit in countries as diverse as Poland, China, Cuba and
most of Latin America.
recent fifth phase of Brazilian television is marked by the appearance
of some new video distribution systems. The first new technology
to diffuse widely in Brazil was the home videocassette recorder
(VCR), which largely gave the middle and upper classes greater access
to imported feature films. The new technology with most effect on
Brazilian electronic media, however, is the satellite distribution
of television to small repeaters throughout the country. In the
1980s, thousands of small towns in rural Brazil purchased satellite
dishes and low power repeaters to bring in Brazilian television
networks, effectively extending television to 99% of the population.
Recent studies show that over 90% of the population probably has
television sets. New video technologies entered the Brazilian television
market in the 1990s, offering focused or segmented programming through
additional advertising supported UHF (ultra high frequency) channels
or pay-TV systems such as subscription television (STV), cable TV
systems, multichannel multipoint distribution systems (MMDS) and
direct satellite broadcasting (DBS).
this most recent period three main approaches have so far been used
to support programming and distribution: Advertising supported UHF,
exemplified by the Brazilian adaptation of MTV, which features about
10-20% Brazilian music; over-the-air pay-TV systems, which usually
rely on imported channels like CNN, ESPN and HBO; and DBS (Direct
Broadcast Satellite) systems, which require subscription. So far
only MTV has gained even a small share of the audience. Studies
to date indicate that most satellite dishes and many cable connections
are being used to secure better reception of Brazilian channels.
though the new technologies seem to threaten to bring in a new wave
of largely U.S. programming, then, the audience studies so far do
not indicate a strong audience response to them, except perhaps
among a globalized elite and upper middle class. The dominant characteristic
of Brazilian television still seems to be that of a strong national
system with a distinct set of genres very popular with its own audience
and in export.
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