According to Brazilian law, open television channels and radio stations must set aside a determined period of time for airing the proposals of political parties and their candidates.
The program, broadcast from August 19 to October 24, is referred to as the mandatory political ad time, and is free of charge – for the parties and their candidates. For taxpayers, on the other hand, it costs millions of dollars.
Nonetheless, broadcasters have gained the right to be compensated for the profits they fail to make from regular advertising during this period – the amount estimated is deducted from the taxes they have to pay.
This year alone, the government is predicted to refrain from collecting nearly US$ 350 million, according to the Secretariat of the Federal Revenue.
The ad time is described by law as “a right to citizenship”, alongside social funds such as the fund for the Child and the Adolescent, and that of the Elderly, which are to receive in 2014 a total of US$ 158.16 million in exemptions, subsidies, as well as financial benefits.
The amount left uncollected shows an increase of almost 39 percent from its 2010 counterpart – US$ 251.47 million – a year that also saw general elections. As for 2008, when Brazilian went to the polls to elect their mayors and city councilors, the figure totaled US$ 174.93 million (inflation during these periods not taken into consideration).
In the view of some analysts, the amount paid so that voters learn about candidates and their proposals is not a problem. They believe the problem lies in the fact that the Brazilian society has little access to and control over spending.
José Roberto Afonso, a researcher from the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, argues for the importance of making people aware of how much is spent on the ad time. He suggested that public agencies should regularly assess the results achieved.
“Each tax incentive should have the reason behind its creation compared to its outcome. The electoral ad time, broadcast on the radio and television, are not free from a transparent technical assessment,” the economist noted.
In late August, a survey commissioned by the National Transport Federation revealed that only 11.5 percent of the respondents think the electoral ad time holds some influence over their decisions.
Another study, this time on voting intentions, released September 23, reports that 34.4 percent of the people interviewed never watch the electoral ad time, whereas 32 percent watch or listen to it a few times during the week, 18 percent some days, and 15 percent everyday.
The results notwithstanding, Marcelo Costa Souza, the coordinator of the surveys, said that the free electoral ad time is important, and does affect electors’ decisions. “Especially in the case of voters at first undecided. And it’s also a powerful tool for representative democracy,” he remarked.
24 Countries to Watch
Delegates from at least 24 countries and dignitaries from the Mercosur Parliament (Parlasur) and from international bodies such as the Organization of American States (OAS) have confirmed their presence in Brazil for the October 5th elections.
The delegations, hailing from countries including Angola, Zambia, Nicaragua, Canada, Romania and Dominican Republic, intend to witness first-hand how the electronic voting system works.
Lodging and air travel costs will be met by the delegates. The visiting group will be over 60-strong and their schedule begins on October 2, three days prior to the election, including lectures about the organization of the general elections in Brazil and visits to the National Congress, the Supreme Federal Court (TSE, in the Portuguese acronym) and the Voting Museum.
The entire program will have simultaneous translation into English, French and Spanish. On election day, the delegates will witness the voting onsite.
“They will be able to see the opening of the boxes, the voting proceedings, the closing of the boxes and finally the vote count at the TSE,” said the head of the TSE’s International Affairs advisory, Tarcisio Costa.
Although the TSE has offered six options of capital cities in which for the visitors to see the voting process; they all chose Brasília, excepting the Cameroonian delegation, which opted for São Paulo.