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On Laity and Lay TV | Paulo Victor Melo

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Source: Brasilianas.Org | Carta Capital

By: Paulo Victor Melo | Intervozes

Topic: Religious Proselytism in the Brazilan Media

Translated: C. Brayton

That is to say, the representative of Brazilian civil society at the head of the Social Communication Council of the Senate is a Catholic archbishop..

Paulo’s is the  most intelligent take on the topic I have seen.

The deluge of religious proselytism on TV is assuming a growing importance, and not just this week, as a result of the papal visit, but as a historical tendency of the Brazilian media, which fails to respect the diversity of faiths and the laity of the State

Since the highest figure in the Catholic Church set foot on Brazilian soil on Monday, July 22, the major open-to-air broadcasters of Brazil have dedicated a huge portion of their programming and content to Pope Francis’s every step.

Judging from the TV screen, Brazil appears to have ground to a halt; nothing unrelated to the daily llife of  the Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio can find a place in the  news.

The TV news shows have turned themselves into extensions of the Vatican PR office.

Brazilian TV news shows and yellow press are always turning themselves into extensions of somebody’s PR office. This is their main problem. 

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Variety and entertainment shows are used to portray the habits and behavioral curiosities of the first South American pope as he travels Brazil.  They constitute a series of factoids, deprived of critical spirit, that abandon journalism and the public interest while illustrating the intimate relationship between media and religion in Brazil.

Coverage of Pope Francis in Brazil by the major broadcasters, in itself, is in itself a cause for concern: privileging a single voice and conceding so much space to a specific religious faith, it undermines the laity of the State.

The intimacy between media and religion in our Brazil, however, has other aspects, oftentimes overlooked or not debated, which raise questions far beyond that of news about the Pope.

The first is that the occupation of radio and TV broadcasts by religious content is not just what happens when the Pope comes to visit.

Masses, sacraments, preaching, sermons and sessions of “catharsis” are some of the other religious rites frequently seen during  morning, afternoon and evening hours on various channels. A study by Intervozes and published by the Folha de S.Paulo  shows that 140 hours a week of Brazilian TV are taken up by religious programming.

CNT and Gazeta are among  the broadcasters who broadcast religious celebrations all day, every day.

But the most emblematic case, without a doubt, is Channel 21 in  São Paulo, with ties to the  Bandeirantes group, which leases  22 horas a day in which to present its  Igreja Mundial do Poder de Deus — the World Church of the Power of God.

The situation is not that different when it comes to broadcasters with larger market share, such as Rede TV and Bandeirantes. Rede TV sells 46 hour of air time per week to various churches.

The Saad family,  meanwhile,  sets aside 31 hours a week exclusively for religious programming. This leasing scheme is a flagrant violation of the applicable law about which the Ministry of Communications, whose duty it is to control such misconduct, is completly silent.

Not satisfied with renting programming space on various channels, religious sects also control nearly a dozen TV stations: Canção Nova, TV Século XXI, TV Aparecida, RIT, Rede Gospel, Rede Mulher and Rede Família, among others.

These are not, we should remember, a recent phenomenon on the Brazilian media scene, but in recent years they have grown significantly.

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A historical landmark for the penetration of  religious sects into the media business was the purchase of TV Record by IURD, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, in 1990, followed by the launch of the Rede Vida, with ties to the Catholic Church, 1995.

Speaking of  Rede Vida,  the current president of the group is Rio archbishop Dom Orani Tempesta, the Pope’s principal  host in Brazil. It is here that the relation of media with religion takes on fresh contours.

This same Dom Orani Tempesta is the current president of the Social Communication Council, an advisory body to the Brazilian Senate created in 1988.

The Council, which was deactivated for seven years, is the principal forum for social participation in the area of communications policy.

Its job is to realize studies and to create findings and recommendations relating to the freedom of expression, creation, and information.

It deals with the educational, artistic, cultural and informational content of TV and radio programming, and participates in the debate over the ownership of radio and TV concessions, among other topics.

That is to say, the representative of Brazilian civil society at the head of the Social Communication Council of the Senate is a Catholic archbishop.

Vice-President is the O Estado de S. Paulo publisher Fernando César Mesquita.

The agenda of the Council is currently completely vacant, however.

Influence over communications policy is fiercely contested. What role does this commission actually play? Not clear, just as the importance of Rede Viva is unclear. It seems like a very modest operation.

Not even the largest public TV network in Brazil is exempt from religious content.

Two hours of Sunday morning on  TV Brasil are reserved for Catholic programming, including an hour dedicated to a live mass from the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro … led by the aforementioned Dom Orani Tempesta.

In 2012, the Curator Council of the EBS — the state-owned broadcaster that operates TV Brasil — decided, after an open consultation with the public, to exchange its religious programs for informative and cultural content about religiosity and the  diversity of human beliefs.

Dom Orani -– the Pope’s primary host, president of the Rede Vida de TV, president of the Social Communication council and director of the program Santa Missa — used public TV time to urge the faithful to pressure President Dilma to reverse the decision of the EBC.

The public time referred to being the time allocated by TV Brasil.

It was not even necessary for the President to reply. The Federal Court for the Federal District issued an injunction protecting the Sunday televised mass. from cancellation

So, then, when the topic is media and religion, we are still far from the respect for the laity of the State and the diversity of credos here in Brazil.

Religious proselytism on TV is a remarkable fact not merely because of the papal visit, but because it reflects a larger trend in Brazilian media — a trend whose consequences are (1) the concession of  privileges to some religious sects and not others and (2) the  dissemination of  (some) traditionalist teachings in defense of a Christian morality.

At risk is the freedom of expression of the Brazilian people as a whole and the democratic tolerance among those who identify or not with this creed or that, and even those who profess absolute disbelief.

It might be interesting to folllow up on the great Armageddon of the Globo-Record wars from this viewpoint. Record is owned by an episodically scandalous “theology of prosperity” Protestant demonination, but its programming is nearly 100% secular. What ideological commitments drive its  bitter rival, Globo is an never-ending source of idle speculation

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One thing seems self-evident: Brazilian viewers support so much religious content because — Einstein — Brazilians in general are an especially devout people, whatever their creed. If you came to visit, you might even smell the arruda burning.

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