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Pointers for a Better Brazilian Press

 Pointers for a Better 
  Brazilian Press

I can’t leave out of
our "ideal agenda" the issue of a body patterned
after the American Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The Brazilian government and the electronic media companies
may not be interested in creating such a body, but I consider it
to be our inalienable duty to instigate this discussion.
by: Alberto
Dines

Text sent to the
members of the Conselho de Comunicação Social
(Council for Social Communications) meeting in Brasília
on June 7, 2004.

Mr. President of the Council
for Social Communications, Ladies and Gentlemen Council Members,

Against my plans, I had
to cancel in the last minute my participation in today’s meeting. I do not
wish, however, to be absent from the discussion scheduled for this occasion
and that is why I offer some reflections in writing.

Late last year, I suggested
a review of the first year in the life of this Council. On the eve of our
second anniversary, I find that such a review has now become imperative.

Obviously, the Council
is not in a position to alter the article of the Constitution that has created
it or to alter its own regulation which was itself approved by Congress.

We have been defined as
an auxiliary agency of the National Congress for issues related to social
communications and as such, it is not up to us to question those rules. We
are only a forum and nothing else.

However, I would add that
we are a privileged forum, because we have at our disposal all the public
exposure tools available within the reach of the Congress and, thanks to this
fact, we are able to bring to the Brazilian society an agenda of issues, which
are normally restricted to the technical and corporate arenas.

However, the fact that
we are a forum and advising agency does not preclude us from overcoming our
original limitations. First of all, by refusing to act in the passive way
to which we were condemned by statute and by starting to take on a more active
and affirmative role.

Second of all—and
as a consequence—, by providing Congress with advice on advance. It is
a proper role for a diversified and wide Council such as ours to come up with
an agenda of issues that is more specific and more advanced, and to which
the gentlemen at Congress, non specialists that they are, would never have
access.

I believe that we took
a real step forward when we started the discussion about the issue of media
concentration and cross ownership [of communications media]. But there
are other issues of identical importance about which we must say something
even before we are consulted.

I consider it to be a
serious omission on the part of the Senate’s bloc not to have called on this
Council to review the special line of credit to be opened by BNDES to communications
companies. The matter was, as it should be, forwarded by the Executive to
the Senate, in an effort to legitimate the unprecedented financing operation.

But the Education Commission
of our High Chamber should have summoned this Council to give its opinion
on such an important issue, instead of randomly selecting less representative
and less legitimate opinions and opinion givers.

There is another topic
of critical importance for the credibility of the Brazilian media system,
about which this Council has the obligation of giving an opinion, even if
not sought by the Senate or by the House.

I am talking about the
issue of conflict of interests, already denounced by Folha de S. Paulo
(and included in our annals), represented by those legislators who are,
at the same time, owners of electronic communications companies, therefore
privileged by a public concession.

We are facing a juridical,
political and institutional aberration because one individual belonging to
one power, the Legislative, cannot integrate another power, in this case the
Press, whose role is to inspect the other powers.

We are not faced, of course,
with a lost cause—or almost lost. However, and maybe because of this
very reason, it should not be swiped from public knowledge.

I can’t leave out of our
"ideal agenda" the issue of a body patterned after the American
FCC (Federal Communications Commission). The Executive and the electronic
media companies may not be interested in creating such a body with regulatory
powers, but I consider it to be our inalienable duty to instigate this discussion,
especially because the idea to make this Council into something similar to
the FCC was part of the work plan of the Constituinte (team who drafted
the Constitution).

I do not pretend, let
alone think that I am qualified, to establish an agenda that will make our
Council less passive and more active. On the other hand, I think I have an
obligation, as a representative of civil society, to stimulate the debate
for the betterment of a council who is able to perform a crucial role in the
development, qualification and democratization of our press.

São Paulo, June
6th, 2004.


Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJOR—Laboratório
de Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced Studies
in Journalism) at UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and editor of the Observatório
da Imprensa. He also writes a column on cultural issues for the Rio
daily Jornal do Brasil. You can reach him by email at obsimp@ig.com.br

This article was
originally published in Observatório da Imprensa — www.observatoriodaimprensa.com.br.

Translated by Tereza
Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based
in Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association.
Contact: terezab@sbcglobal.net.

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