“Newspapers are like revolvers: You keep them around so you can pull them out when it’s time to open fire.” — Julio Mario Santo Domingo (owner of El Espectador, Colombia)
The Brazilian journalist does not feel free to write. More than just having to follow the editorial line of the publications they work for, the complaints principally have to do with coercion by political or business groups. –“A Profile of the Brazilian Journalist”
Bush makes sure that a fat sum from the advertising budget of his government goes to a media group secretly controlled by Dick Cheney through apparently unrelated public fronts: The Washington Times, Fox News, and a network of stations that carry Rush Limbaugh, say.
The media outlets launder their ad revenues into kickbacks used by Cheney to fund a shadow government run by an Army lieutenant colonel, say.
(The Bush government actually did engage in practices that circumvented legislation on government propaganda. SourceWatch is writing the book on the subject.)
First of all, it would be a shock to learn that all of a sudden, the government spends taxpayer money advertising itself — and its party. (In the paleo-Trotskyite world of the neocons, the Party and the State are One.) But governments here do that. Even relatively honest ones, which do exist. Hangover from the Estado Novo, I tend to think.
Still, whatever you think of three-term NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, you cannot say he ever used Bloomberg LLC to promote himself politically.
He is not, at least, a Gothamite Carlos Lacerda — governor of the Brazilian federal district in the 1950s for the UDN, who owned and edited the newspaper A Tribuna da Imprensa and enjoyed an open microphone at Rádio Globo, the cornerstone of the present-day Globo empire — or Hugo Chávez (“Aló Presidente!”).
Anyway, via Congresso Em Foco/Folha de S. Paulo
O Distrito Federal pagou ao menos R$ 10,4 milhões para empresas do governador interino, Paulo Octávio (DEM), veicularem publicidade oficial. O valor se refere aos últimos três anos, quando ele já era vice de José Roberto Arruda (sem partido), hoje afastado e preso.
The federal district government paid at least R$10.4 million to companies belonging to interim governor Paulo Octávio (DEM) for the publication and broadcasting of official publicity. The amount was paid out over the last three years, when Octávio was the vice-governor of Arruda (ex-DEM), who is currently suspended and under arrest.
O levantamento da Folha mapeou as verbas distritais repassadas por agências de publicidade a empresas das Organizações Paulo Octávio -conglomerado de comunicação que inclui emissoras de rádio e TV.
The Folha‘s research mapped the district budget allocations paid to PR agencies and spent with the Paulo Octávio Organizations — a media conglomerate that includes radio and TV broadcasters.
Os valores se referem só aos contratos da administração direta -estão excluídas empresas públicas e fundações- e foram levantados no sistema de execução orçamentária do DF.
These sums represent only so-called directly managed contracts — leaving out state-owned companies and foundations — and were researched in the district’s budget database.
Dono de um complexo imobiliário em Brasília, além de shopping, concessionária de carros e hotel, Paulo Octávio também é proprietário da TV Brasília e das rádios JK, Voz do Cerrado, Gama e Principal.
Owner of a real estate complex in Brasília, as well as a shopping center, an auto dealership, and a hotel, Octávio also owns TV Brasília and radio stations JK, Voz do Cerrado, Gama and Principal.
The Web site of TV Brasília is hosted by:
domain: correioweb.com.br owner: S/A CORREIO BRAZILIENSE ownerid: 000.001.172/0001-80 responsible: André Gomes dos Reis e-mail: email@example.com
That is to say, the station partakes of a rich heritage going back to the media empire of Assis Chateaubriand, who once ran a forged telegram informing readers that a top aide to Mussolini, with family in Brazil — Andrea Matarazzo of the DEM-PSDB S. Paulo city government is a descendant of the man — had been lynched by an Italian mob. Just to get a rise out of his political adversaries in Brazil. The fascist in the family was actually fine.
Só em 2009, as empresas de comunicação do político receberam para fazer propaganda do governo R$ 5,2 milhões -valor 126% maior que o registrado no primeiro ano da gestão Arruda, R$ 2,3 milhões.
In 2009 alone, the politician’s media firms received R$5.2 to advertise the government — 126% more than in Arruda’s first year in office, when they received R$2.3 million.
A reportagem não conseguiu levantar dados sobre publicidade anteriores a 2007.
The Folha was unable to access data on publicity expenditures prior to 2007.
Was this because they relied on searching the district government’s Transparency Portal? The site offers skimpy data going back to 2006, in PDF files, without a search engine.
A maior fatia do bolo publicitário foi repassada para a TV Brasília. Entre 2007 e 2009, a emissora ficou com R$ 3,3 milhões. Em seguida estão as rádios JK (R$ 2,3 milhões), Principal (R$ 2,1 milhões), Gama (R$ 1,6 milhão) e Voz do Cerrado (R$ 1,1 milhão).
The largest slice of the publicity cake went to TV Brasília. Between 2007 and 2009, the station received R$3.3 million. In second place was Rádio JK (R$2.3 million), followed by Principal. (R$2.1 million), Gama (R$1.6 million) and Voz do Cerrado (R$1.1 million).
Conforme revelou a Folha, o político omitiu na declaração de bens à Justiça Eleitoral sua participação societária nessa última emissora. Paulo Octávio alegou que, à época, a rádio não estava em funcionamento.
As the Folha has previously reported, the politician failed to declare his share in Voz do Cerrado in his declaration of assets to the elections authorities. He alleged that at the time the station was not in operation.
Embora repassada às empresas de comunicação pelas agências que venceram as licitações, as verbas eram distribuídas conforme critério da Secretaria de Comunicação do DF, então comandada por Weligton Moraes, preso na semana passada sob a acusação de tentar subornar uma testemunha do mensalão do DEM -motivo que também levou Arruda à prisão.
Though paid out to the media companies by PR agencies that won out in the competitive bidding process, the monies were distributed according to criteria set by the district government’s communications secretariate, headed at the time by Weligton Moraes, who was arrested last week on charges of bribing a witness in the case against the governor — the same charge that led to the arrest of Arruda.
O governo do DF e o conglomerado de comunicação de Paulo Octávio afirmam que a distribuição da verba observa a audiência das emissoras.
The district government and the Octávio Organization say the distribution of payments were proportional to the ratings of the broadcasters.
No ano passado, o DF gastou com publicidade R$ 201 milhões -nessa conta, mais uma vez, estão excluídas empresas públicas e fundações. O jornal “Correio Braziliense” recebeu a maior parte dessa verba.
Last year, the district government spent R$201 million on publicity — once again, excluding publicity for state-owned firms and foundations. The Correio Braziliense newspaper received the majority of this sum.
The Correio Braziliense: 180° Left Turn
As Venício A. de Lima of the (Ford Foundation-funded) Observátorio da Imprensa notes, in a critique of national and local coverage of Arruda’s arrest:
Na verdade, no dia 11, a capa do Correio Braziliense não trouxe uma única referência ao assunto (a manchete principal era sobre a elevação das taxas de juros), e a última página do caderno “Cidades”, que vinha sendo reservada para a discretíssima e enviesada cobertura do escândalo, destaca as relações do jornalista Edson “Sombra” com “personalidades” que “transitam entre grupos políticos de diferentes correntes”.
In fact, on February 11, the cover of the Correio carried not a single reference to the governor’s arrest (the top headline concerned the raising of interest rates) and the final page of the Cities section, which has been reserved for paper’s the discreet and massively slanted coverage of the case, shines the spotlight on journalist “Edson the Shadow” and his relations with “personages” who “act as go-betweens for political groups of different orientations.”
“Who is Edson the Shadow?” — the journo who convinced Durval Barbosa to become a federal informant and secretly videotape Arruda & Co. — is actually a legitimate question. CartaCapital carried an interview with the man last week.
In the following days, however, Lima writes:
Registre-se a inacreditável “virada” na cobertura do Correio Braziliense a partir do afastamento e prisão de Arruda: o que era cuidadosamente escondido passou a ser tratado em manchetes de primeira página. Na sexta-feira (12/2), por exemplo, toda a capa do jornal é sobre o escândalo e a manchete principal berrava: “Arruda é preso. DF sob ameaça de intervenção”. Logo abaixo, em letras vermelhas, um trecho do voto do ministro relator no STJ: “A organização criminosa instalada no GDF continua valendo-se de poder econômico e político para atrapalhar as investigações e, assim, garantir a impunidade”.
We saw an unbelievable reversal of course in the Correio‘s coverage after the suspension and arrest of Arruda: What had been carefully hidden before now became front-page headline material. On February 12, for example, the entire front page is dedicated to the scandal and the top headline roars “Arruda jailed. District threatened with federal intervention.” Directly below, in red letters, a passage from the opinion of the federal court that ordered the arrest: “The criminal organization installed in the district government continues to use its political and economic power to obstruct investigations and thus guarantee impunity for itself.”
All bets are apparently off. A revolution in the newsroom? Who’s the new boss? Any different from the old boss?
Micropropaganda and the Publicity Machine
Also writing in the Observatório, Rodrigo Chia begins to outline a parallel system of government propaganda run out of the communications secretariate.
Poucos moradores da capital do país já ouviram falar do jornal O Distrital. Apesar disso, o obscuro quinzenário acaba de assumir papel destacado no escândalo da propina no Distrito Federal, sob investigação na Operação Caixa de Pandora. Seu proprietário, Edson Sombra, denunciou uma tentativa de suborno supostamente ordenada pelo próprio governador José Roberto Arruda.
Few federal capital residents have ever heard of the newspaper O Distrital. Nevertheless, the obscure twice-monthly has loomed large in the bribery scandal here … its owner, “Edson the Shadow,” charged that he was offered a bribe with the alleged connivance of Governor Arruda himself.
O aliciamento, porém, não tinha como objetivo garantir apoio editorial ou qualquer outro favor “jornalístico”. O dinheiro, aparentemente, destinava-se à obtenção de uma declaração assinada por Sombra desqualificando as gravações feitas por Durval Barbosa que consubstanciam as acusações contra o governador, secretários, deputados, empresários…
The bribe offer, however, had nothing to do with editorial support for the governor or any other sort of “journalistic” favor. The money was apparently to pay for a signed declaration by The Shadow that would undermine the credibility of the video recordings made by Durval Barbosa, which corroborate the charges against the governor and others.
O novo episódio, não obstante, diz muito sobre a “função social” dos jornais e revistas que circulam na capital.
This latest episode tells us a lot about the “public interest” served by newpapers and magazines that circulate in the capital.
Como se sabe, para comprovar a versão de suborno, Sombra apresentou um bilhete escrito pelo governador. No recado, dirigido ao deputado distrital Geraldo Naves, estaria a ordem para se fazer a proposta a Sombra. Confrontada com a evidência, posta sob suspeita e logo admitida autêntica com a mesma velocidade, a tropa de defesa de Arruda saiu-se com a seguinte explicação: o bilhete apenas reassegurava que o governador gostava de Sombra e que a verba publicitária (anúncios) para seu jornal estava garantida.
As we know, to prove his bribery charge, The Shadow presented a note in the governor’s handwriting. The message, addressed to district legislator Geraldo Naves, allegedly orders Naves to offer the bribe to The Shadow. Faced with the evidence, Arruda’s defense team offered the following explanation: The note merely reassured The Shadow that the governor liked him and guaranteed the advertising budget for his paper.
The Shadow claims a code was prearranged.
Publicidade para “jornaleco”
Ad buys for a “micropaper”
Ao mesmo tempo, um dos advogados de Arruda, Nélio Machado, foi à imprensa desqualificar, mais uma vez, a “ardilosa campanha” contra seu cliente. Ao insuspeito Correio Braziliense (edição de sábado, 6/2), por exemplo, declarou:
At the same time, one of Arruda’s attornies, Nélio Machado, went public in the press to disqualify, yet again, the “sneaky and insidious campaign” against his client. On February 6, for example, he declared to the unsuspecting Correio Braziliense:
“Trata-se de episódio absolutamente delirante, inspirado por verdadeiros comparsas e que, ao que tudo leva a crer, ensejou a prisão de Antônio Bento [que entregou uma sacola com R$ 200 mil a Sombra], que compartilhava da administração e edição de determinado `jornaleco´ quinzenal, ao lado de Edson Sombra.”
“This is a completely insane episode, inspired by honest to god conspirators. All indications are that its aim was to frame Antônio Bento [he handed over a sack filled with R$200,000 to The Shadow], who shared the editing and management of the [micropaper] O Distrital with The Shadow.”
Nélio Machado also represented investment banker and fund operator Daniel Dantas — with some success. A hearing will be held in March to determine the alleged bias of the judge in the case, who sentenced Dantas to ten years in prison for bribery of a federal agent. The federal agent in charge of the case, meanwhile, will be grilled about using assets of ABIN (the Brazilian CIA) in his investigation (he claims that cooperation among agencies in the formally implemented Brazilian Intelligence Community is entirely legal.)
Para o causídico, a desqualificação dos envolvidos esclarece muita coisa, mas a defesa de Arruda poderia aproveitar para responder a algumas perguntas igualmente instigantes. Por que o governo do Distrito Federal gasta centenas de milhares de reais por ano publicando anúncios num “jornaleco”?
In Machado’s view, this disqualification of the persons involved in the alleged bribery offer clears up a number of issues. Still, Arruda’s defense might well take the opportunity to answer other, equally provocative, questions. Why did the district government pay tens of thousands per year to advertise in “micropapers”?
Que critérios utilizou para decidir divulgar suas ações nesse “jornaleco”? Se um cidadão qualquer, sem ligações políticas, fundar um “jornaleco” na capital federal e procurar o governo local em busca de anúncios, receberá o mesmo tratamento benevolente destinado a O Distrital?
What criteria did it use when it decided to advertise in this tiny publication? If some John Doe off the street, without political connections, decided to start up a paper in the district and solicited ads from the local government, would he get the same treatment as O Distrital?
No Distrito Federal, existem inúmeros jornalecos (e “revistecas”) em circulação, em geral publicações sofríveis, com erros grosseiros de português, diagramação amadora e impressão fora de registro, para ficar só em aspectos objetivos. Todas, contudo, estampam em suas páginas anúncios do governo local (e do federal também), sempre pagos a “preço de tabela”. Entender os interesses que movem esse curioso investimento público parece ser uma caixa de Pandora tão difícil de abrir quanto a do governador Arruda.
There are countless “micropapers” and “micromagazines” in circulation in the district, most of them just awful, with terrible grammar, amateurish layout and defective printing, to name only their objective defects. All of them, however, carry government advertising, always paid at the “official rate.” Understanding the motivations behind this curious use of taxpayer money might prove to be a Pandora’s box of its own, as difficult to open as Arruda’s.
It is very hard to find any complete list of Brasília publications by simple googling. Most of the standard lists contain only the Correio, the JBr, the Gazeta Mercantil (defunct) and the Diário Oficial (government announcements.)
Here is a list of print distributors. There seem to be more than a dozen — a stark contrast to São Paulo, where the Editora Abril, a magazine publishing concern, owns 100% of print distribution, including the distribution of competing publications.
I am trying to work this angle of the story in my (increasingly scarce) spare time: what are the names of journos on the payroll of this political machine? The Brazilian press is never eager to cover its own sins, so you rarely read about such things.
One exemplary case that sticks in my mind was the TV Globo Rio police reporter, a Mr. Xavier Messias — or Messias Xavier, I forget — who moonlighted as a spy for the gambling rackets, turning over confidential information garnered from his reporting work in the police stations of Rio to the bicheiros and bingo (digital-era one-armed bandit) operators of the city. In return for a measly extra R$1,000 a month. Allegedly.
The day following news of his arrest, when I checked, every single reference to the man and his work had apparently been expunged from the domain Globo.com.
Unlike the Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass cases, where the Times and New Republic went over their back numbers with a fine-tooth comb and reported what they found.
Rough draft of a “social network” analysis of the Arruda “intelligence team,” which comprised a number of journalists with ties to the two major dailies of the federal district, the Correio and the Jornal da Brasília.
At another moment, an anecdote about the elevated concentration of vitriol in this rivalry. Enough to note that among the members of the team are an ex-editor of the JBr and current editor of the CBense who used to be married.
Mapping the Business Ecosystem
Click to zoom.
Caveat: So far, this is not much more than an excuse to goof around with one of my favorite pieces of software, CMapTools. Needs a lot of rejiggering. Highly incomplete. Not to be taken as gospel. Accused are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, as they say at the end of every episode of C.O.P.S. …
Follow The Twits
Omézio Pontes, by the way — a fugitive at one point — can be tracked via Twitter if he happens to stop into a LAN house while he is on the lam. He has not yet posted. He follows betosalesdf, papofirme, kimdiniz, and paulogusmao.
Among those who follow Omézio is Ivan Rodriques, a nurse in the district public health service who received intense publicity recently for showing up at the governor’s mansion wearing the clown nose — that universal symbol of protest of contemporary Brazil — and airing his grievances. He writes (7:54 PM Feb 13th):
Quando me incentivam a sair candidato a deputado distrital ficou honrado pela confiança, mais, ainda estou construindo algo sólido esperem!
When they encouraged me to run for the district legislature I was honored by their confidence in me, but, I am still building something solid here, just you wait!
He blogs, too.
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