US Media Is Brazil’s Business

 US Media Is Brazil's Business

Why should Brazil care
about cartelization and the end of
diversity in the U.S. information sector? Well, it is our
business and we should care for many reasons, the main one
being the Federal Communications Commission. That agency
has a clearly progressive vocation, in the American democracy.
by: Alberto
Dines

Another pleasant surprise comes from the great newspaper founded by Júlio
Mesquita, this time showing a welcome willingness to abolish taboos and open
the debate about a major ghost threatening the press—the concentration
of the media in huge corporate conglomerates.

It is hard to find among
large newspapers such drive and audacity to confront the appetites of these
all-powerful groups, either domestically or abroad. Big papers are produced
by big corporations with big defensive instincts that usually favor collectivism
and the preservation of the status quo.

This is not the case of
Estado de S. Paulo: the paper’s defensive instinct pushes it against
immobility and the need for propriety. The unfreezing (or bang-on-the-table)
season started on January 13th, 2003, when the paper dedicated
its main editorial to the cartelization of communications in the U.S.

That editorial was enough
to cause the inclusion in the agenda of the Conselho de Comunicação
Social (Council for Social Communications) a discussion about concentration
and cross-ownership of communication media in Brazil.

More recently, in a speech,
the newspaper’s director Ruy Mesquita invested against the "Murdochization"
of contemporary journalism (reference to media shark Rupert Murdoch, a symbol
of cartelization).

In turn, another director
of the group, Fernão Lara Mesquita, in a presentation before the Senate,
made his stage entrance with an incisive exposé of the vertiginous
process of cartelization of the American press.

The reader may want to
ask: and what business is this of ours? Why should we care about cartelization
and the end of diversity in the U.S. information sector?

Well, it is our business
and we should care—very much so—for many reasons, the main one being
the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). That regulating agency was created
in the 1930s of the century past, during the era of President Franklin D.
Roosevelt’s New Deal, and has a clearly progressive vocation, just as the
other creations of the man responsible for the renewal of American democracy.

Public Interest

Along its history, the
FCC has been able to exercise its role as a brake for the predatory impetus
of unbridled capitalism in the field of communications and entertainment.

The agency rarely gets
involved in the content circulated in the media, but recently it has penalized
radio and TV channels for broadcasting content considered to be obscene.

Its role consists of protecting
competition and preserving diversity in the media system in order to ensure
equidistance and balance.

Democratic Cornerstone

The FCC has been harassed
by the appetites of the great corporate conglomerates and their partners in
the financial sector because the acronym has become a synonym of regulation
and control—two concepts they deem intolerable.

In the Bush administration,
the steam roller of American conservatism has caused huge damage at FCC: important
requirements concerning corporate concentration have been mitigated and subverted.

In spite of its deformities,
the agency still serves as a reference and is still regarded as a paradigm
for defending society against the dizzying process of mergers that so disfigures
both press and journalism—journalism, yes, because of its attempts to
portray journalism as a trailer behind industries with no commitment whatsoever
with the public interest.

To be concerned with FCC
does not mean to submit to the agenda of most domestic debates in the U.S.,
notwithstanding allegations from Brazilian corporate lobbies.

It is, instead, a legitimate
concern, and a civic one, because while Americans still have some awareness
of the need to recover Roosevelt’s legacy, in Brazil we can only cling to
the vague hope of one day having a regulatory agency inspired in the FCC.

A Heritage of Struggle

As long as the National
Congress accepts to be influenced by those of its own members who are also
concessionaires of radio and TV services, it is impossible to expect any initiative
coming from the Legislative with the power to repress this concentration and
to heal the media system.

Even if the Lula administration
loses its incomprehensible and incoherent hatred for the concept of regulatory
agencies, a project of this nature will never pass through the commissions
or the plenary sessions in Congress.

It will be kept in the
drawer for a few decades longer, because these physiological Representatives
and Senators have no shame in publicly stating their ethical contradictions—they
even enjoy it.

And those who would be
able to endorse the creation of an agency for this purpose will never step
ahead to openly face the resentment of the corporate lobbies of the electronic
media.

This shows how important
this crusade just initiated by the Estadão really is. We are
talking about a newspaper with strictly liberal ideas, against state control,
who is nevertheless showing its commitment to the goal of creating mechanisms
for controlling the perversions of the free enterprise system in the field
of journalism and social communications.

In spite of all political
difficulties, the powerful interests at stake and the insensitivity of the
rest of the press regarding its future as a respectable and diversified institution,
Estadão has made a bet and added one more cause to its heritage
of struggles.


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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