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Brazzil - Media - August 2003

Brazil: Farewell to the Last Emperor

Globo's owner, Roberto Marinho, built an empire from a single
newspaper, which he took over in 1921. Over the decades, he
built up a media chain of newspapers, radio and television
stations. TV Globo created the phenomenon of the telenovela,
which has been exported all over the world.

John Fitzpatrick


It was obvious that something had happened about 10.30 p.m. on Wednesday when the São Paulo-Cruzeiro soccer game was being shown on TV Globo. As soon as half-time came we were suddenly whisked to a darkened news studio where a nervous-looking female journalist was looking at the camera. Since the Congress was in the middle of a heated debate over pension reform at that moment, following a day of violent demonstrations in Brasília, one was expecting a political newsflash.

Instead, the woman announced that the owner of the Globo Group, Roberto Marinho, had just died at the age of 98. She read a brief statement from the family announcing that he had been rushed to the hospital earlier in the day with a lung problem and had died about 9.30 p.m. during surgery. The late media magnate was referred to simply as "jornalista" as though he were still a hack scribbler.

The news quickly reached Congress where the session was halted for a (rather noisy) minute's silence. An even noisier minute's silence was held at the football stadium where young players, who had probably never heard of Marinho, bowed their heads and showed their respect for what it was worth. The football commentator looked as shaken as the Globo journalist and, for one moment, looked as though he were about to cry as he paid his tribute to "doutor" Roberto Marinho.

There is no doubt that Marinho was a brilliant businessman. He built an empire from a single newspaper which he took over in 1921 at the age of just 20 when his father died suddenly. Over the decades he built up a media chain of newspapers, radio and television stations. His main newspaper "O Globo" was a supporter of the military government. This helped him later on to obtain TV licenses and, as television became more accessible to the population as a whole, he gained great influence and wealth. TV Globo created the phenomenon of the telenovela soap operas, which dominate evening television here, and have been exported all over the world.

Whether the autocratic Marinho really accepted the return to democracy is unclear, but he had a strong political ally in Antônio Carlos Magalhães, an old-style "colonel" from Bahia state and a national political heavyweight for several decades. TV Globo was so opposed to the PT candidate, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in the 1989 election campaign that it blatantly favored his opponent and eventual victor, Fernando Collor de Mello. Despite this, President Lula ordered three days of mourning and PT leaders were among those who paid the warmest tributes to "doutor" Marinho.

Veja Doesn´t Let Facts Get in the Way of Telling the Truth

It was good to read Alan Marcus's article in brazzil.com in which he criticized Veja magazine for its new publication "Jovens". He aptly highlighted the artificial world created by this magazine, which stresses individual consumerism and hedonism at the expense of the good of society as a whole. It is difficult to believe that this is the magazine, which published a series of articles in 1992 which led to the downfall of President Fernando Collor de Mello.

Nowadays serious journalism has given way to superficial political and economic coverage. These are outweighed by feather-light articles on celebrities, and health and beauty items, which would not be out of places in gossip rags like Caras or fitness and beauty magazines like Boa Forma.

I lost virtually all faith in Veja about a year ago when I wrote complaining about a map of Britain it published which had "Inglaterra" (England) stamped on it. I pointed out that Britain was, in fact, made up of three separate countries—England, Scotland and Wales—which, along with Northern Ireland, formed the United Kingdom. I pointed out that not only did Scotland have a separate legal and educational system from England but also had its own parliament and government.

Instead of admitting that it had made a mistake, Veja published part of my letter within an article covering half a page in which it downplayed the Scottish parliament and said it had few powers. It also said that since Brazilians generally referred to the UK as "England" then it would continue to do so even though this was factually incorrect. To be fair, Veja published my reply in which I pointed out that the government in Edinburgh had responsibility for all Scottish affairs and had powers to set taxes. However, the careless attitude adopted by Veja towards establishing facts, as opposed to fiction, now makes me distrust it in all other areas.

State of Siege

When violence gets out of hand people often compare Brazil with Colombia where criminals and left-wing guerrillas have forged an alliance to challenge the state. Despite the ongoing violence here—massacres in favela shanty towns, raids by drug gangs on police stations, shoot-outs in the streets, prison riots—this comparison is still not appropriate. However, at times, one wonders if Brazil will follow the Colombian route.

This week, for example, the director of the Bangu prison complex in Rio de Janeiro was shot dead as he went home from work. His car was boxed in and he was attacked by a gang of four gunmen. He was the third senior official of this prison complex to be murdered in this way. What is particularly appalling is that not only are the police pretty sure who ordered the killing—a prison inmate—but they believe he was assisted by some prison officials concerned about an investigation the director had been making into their behavior in the killing of another prisoner.

What's in a (Brazilian) Name?

A survey published recently showed that the six most popular boys' names in Brazil were: João, José, Gabriel, Lucas, Pedro and Mateus. For girls the order was: Maria, Ana, Júlia, Beatriz, Vitória and Larissa. It would have been more interesting to publish a list of the odd names which so many Brazilians have. Some of these names are so strange—Juracir or Valente—that a foreigner often cannot even tell whether they are male or female. Other times they are the opposite of what you would imagine. I used to work with a woman called "Francis" and the former Brazilian ambassador to Rome was called "Andrea" although he was His and not Her Excellency.

Here is a list of names of people I know or which I have come in contact with. When I look at these names I cannot understand why a simple name like "John" often throws Brazilians of balance and is invariably written "Jonh".
Man's Name  Woman's Name
Adhemar  Ariane
Adilson  Betina
Aecio  Candida
Alcides  Cissa
Anesio  Cleide
Arminio  Deila
Celso  Dercia
Dagoberto  Dilma
Demosthenes  Donata
Dilson  Fortunata
Dirceu  Frasileira
Doorgal  Haydee
Durval  Ilza
Edilson  Isilda
Edson  Janeth
Elzo  Josefa
Estrogildo  Keila
Everardo  Kerla
Genivaldo  Luana
Hamilton  Luma
Heber  Maria Antonieta
Itamar  Marici
Joelmir  Mariinha
Kleber  Marilia
Lazaro  Marinalva
Lelivaldo  Marivalda
Marco Antonio  Mariza
Milton  Marizes
Moacyr  Narcisa
Natalinho  Neiva
Nelson  Neusa
Nilson  Salete
Rufino  Selma
Sperandio  Sueli
Vinicius  Suelma
Wilson  Zulaie


John Fitzpatrick is a Scottish journalist who first visited Brazil in 1987 and has lived in São Paulo since 1995. He writes on politics and finance and runs his own company, Celtic Comunicações— www.celt.com.br, which specializes in editorial and translation services for Brazilian and foreign clients. You can reach him at jf@celt.com.br

© John Fitzpatrick 2003




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