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Abril Fools | The Privateering of São Paulo’s PBS

Alberto Dines, grand old man of the Brazilian press, complains, in Observatório da Imprensa, of the privatization of public broadcasting. I translate:

Would the BBC or PBS establish long-term partnerships with British or American commercial broadcasters? Hardly, although they do collaborate with one another.

The Ford Foundation, for its part, bankrolled the initiative of Fred W. Friendly to create the Public Broadcasting System, and then, some years later, to finance the BBC’s entry into the U.S. market.

Ford also bankrolls the OI, by the way.

In democratic countries, the television game takes place on a level playing field, with clearly defined roles distributed so as to balance the equation. The private sector bids on new channels in order to exploit them according to the norms and regulations approved by society. In order to balance out this scenario, the public sector creates public TV channels — as in the U.S. and U.K. — or state-owned public-interest broadcasters, as in Brazil. A third option is community-based TV, which has yet to establish tself as a viable alternative.

I would only add that U.S. public TV is hardly a stellar example of commercial-free broadcasting any longer. Most of its news programming consists of think tank pundits who meet their rent with salaries paid, at arm’s length, by a fairly small and tight community of corporate donors.

«For an unbiased view of this issue, we call on John Doe, Bill Gates Professor of Interlocking Directorates at Stanvard Law».

Take the interview half-hour Think Tank, for example

«Funding for THINK TANK is provided by the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Foundation» — John Birch Society –; «the Smith Richardson Foundation» — American Enterprise Institute –; «the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation» — Heritage, Federalist, AEI; «and, by Marilyn Ware» — Imternational Democrat Union.

A similar tendency was already been plainly visible to viewers of TV Cultura’s Roda Viva interview show — Abril, for example, openly partners with Atlas Network member Instituto Millenium, just as PBS maintains «content partnerships» with think tank talking heads.

Dines continues:.

Fait Accompli

The partnership between the Folha group and São Paulo’s  TV Cultura is, paradoxically, good for the viewer and bad for Brazilian TV, precisely because it violates the hard and fast rules differentiating the private and the public.

The role of TV Cultura is to  promote a critical and «republican» viewpoint, promoting as it does an equilibrium between the commercial interests of the major broadcasters and the public interest, as well as taking an independent stance with regard to the political, cultural or religious interests of commercial and state-run broadcasters.

TV Folha, which will air on Sundays on TV Cultura, upsets this balance. It is one more example of our taste for «sweetheart deals» and informality. It transforms a public broadcaster into a mere extension of private media, emasculates TV Cultura’s independence, strips it of its alternative and civic-minded status. […]

News that Editora Abril will also take part in this game of public-private partnership  — its show will run on Tuesday evenings — confirms this analysis. The Folha’s show is sponsored by Renault, the ads aired are not house ads, as expected of a public broadcasters — and cars are openly advertised.

Folha and TV Cultura will no doubt divide the proceeds, which means that this is no mere exchange of content between and among independent platforms. TV Cultura is moving, baggage and all, to the private sector. This is terrible news for all involved, including commercial broadcasters, which now must confront unexpected new competition.

Has the advisory board of the Padre Anchieta foundation approved of this metamorphosis or is it merely forced to accept it as an accomplished fact? Have there been any attempts by Cultura to collaborate with TV Brasil?

The corporation’s sponsoring body is the

… Padre Anchieta Foundation, [whose] Board of Directors is composed of 47 members. Life members of the board, as well as elected members, are appointed largely through the influence of the state of  São Paulo. The government’s role in the foundation’s decision making process — which ((goes against)) its stated principles — has been a topic of criticism.

I will try to find an argument supporting TV Folha and TV Abril.. I promise. The devilish Diogo Mainardi has some sharp witticisms about the governance of the federal government’s TV Brasil. Rodrigo Viannna reports that Valor Econômico and the Estado de S. Paulo have also been invited to air their content on Cultura.