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Press & Education | Veja Canonized With Media Contract

outdoor_veja_alckmin_opt (1)

“Alckmin the Defiant”: Veja hagiography of state governor on a billboard in inland S. Paulo. Source: Tijolaço

Source:  Diário do Centro do Mundo.

Topic: Why the state government should not procure politically friendly weeklies and dailies for use in public schools.

Contract

As Helena Sthephanowitz of Rede Brasil Atual explains.

On June 14, as public attention was drawn to the street protests in São Paulo, the state Official Diary published the acquisition — without competitive bidding — of 5,200 six-month subscriptions to Veja magazine for distribution to the public schools  The value of the contract was R$ 669,240.00 and was disbursed by the Education Development Foundation, an agency of the state government.

The foundation is at the center of a current scandal involving the impeachment of the PSDB mayor of Taubaté, who is accused of diverting funds from it.

For years the PSDB governments of São Paulo have been roundly criticized for the high-volume purchase of these magazines and newspapers. Critics point to the lack of competitive bidding — after all, there are at least three other newsweeklies in Brazil that compete with Veja.

IstoÉ, Época and Carta Capital, the latter of which publishes an educational supplement, Carta na Escola.

The editorial line of Veja is, let us say, more sympathetic to the state government and hostile to opposition forces in the state. This fact draws questions as to whether these contracts serve political interests rather than the public interest.

Tijolaço is scathing:

The right wing knows how to take care of its own. In the last few weeks, Governor Geraldo Alckmin has distributed nearly R$ 4 million worth of subscriptions to Veja, the Folha and the Estadão. Distributed to whom? To public schoolchildren in the state. Without competitive bidding.

The problem here, apart from the misuse of public funds and the incentive to further concentration in the media market, is the exposure of young minds to a journalism that is untrustworthy, outdated, and, above all, reactionary.

This line of argument supposes that defining Veja as a canonical text is contrary to freedom of expression. A similar argument can be made on the grounds of creating a healthy market relatively free of oligopolies. See

Paulo Nogueira of DCM — edited remotely from London — argues, from experience:

This is an arrangement between friends in which the taxpayer is the one who foots the bill.

In the digital era, what student is going to read Veja, the Folha or the Estado de S. Paulo?

The Internet is buzzing this weekend over the purchase of thousands of subscriptions to Veja, the Folha and the  Estadão by the state government of São Paulo.

These are public funds,  paid out of the education budget. The publications will supposedly be read by the public schoolchildren of São Paulo and aid in their education.

This fact allegedly mitigates, at least in part, the fact that the subscriptions were procured without competitive bidding.

This is not quite the case, however.

What really happened is the so-called “deal among friends,” the parties to which — news organizations and politicians — exchange favors using taxpayer funds.

It is a venerable practice that thanks to the Internet is becoming increasingly obvious to the Brazilian people.

An Exemplary Case

When I worked in the print publications division of Globo, I experienced an exemplary case of this tactic.

It was 2007, and I had just been hired as editorial director of Globo magazines.

The principal newsweekly, Época, was alsway extremely gentle with a governor from a certain northern Brazilian state.

This governor, as I discovered later, bought up huge lots of books from Globo, orders that were helping maintain the profitability of the publishing house.

Then we published an accusation against the governor. Chaos ensued.

The governor came to São Paulo to speak with me and the director-general of the house at the time, Juan Ocerin.

The discussion could not possibly have gone worse. The governor was rude, and I told him I would not stand for being addressed in that tone …

The governor left the room, but not without issuing a threat: “I am going to talk to João Roberto.” The reference is to João Roberto Marinho, the middle son of Roberto Marinho and the de facto editor of the entire Globo organization.

I don’t know if he ever did speak to JR.

Before he left, however, he caught sight of the publicity director of the publishing division, who had negotiated with him the purchase of the books.

More  confusion. This time, the result was a three-way conversation: Ocerin, myself, and the publicity director.

In a few minutes, after some harsh language, I told the publicity director that I would never speak to him against.

In fact, I  never did.

A new publicity director was hired, and he told me that on several occasions Ocerin complained that he lacked that magical access to the governor that would allow him to sink money into the publishing house during dry spells.

Digital Generation

Globo’s conduct was similar to Alckmin’s appropriation of publications.

No one says so, but it is understood that the government expects sympathetic treatment in the publication’s editorial coverage.

From a strictly logical point of view, can anyone imagine young students reading Veja, the Folha or the Estadão, in order to appreciate the articles of Dora Kramer, Maílson da Nóbrega and Pondé?

All of these might well be used to teach informal fallacies and rhetorical strategy to high school students. The technical level of the publications criticized is generally quite good.

This is a digital generation, completely divorced from the print media. .

As a test of what the real motivation of the sale is, look and see whether any private schools spend millions on subscriptions to the three publications.

This is, I repeat, an arrangement among friends.

But it is the taxpayer who pays the bill.

Final Considerations

The anecdote suggests the possibility of similar arrangements with any number of Brazilian states. Are there other examples?

The size of this contract is not impressive, but multiplied by the states governed by the PSDB and allies — I count eight, but I also wonder whether the PMDB might not engage in similar conduct — and you could be talking real money.

Perhaps São Paulo state should spend much more on periodicals and school library materials, opening up the market to  competition, and take steps to encourage greater diversity.

In theory, the 10% quota on petroleum from the Santos Basin set aside for education spending could help accomplish this.

The Grupo Abril, meanwhile, is reportedly undergoing a strategic transition from mass media publishing to educational materials and curricula.

And as an afterthought: The Estado de S. Paulo, though confessedly conservative, is still a pretty fine paper, and its real-time newswire, Agência Estado is the best of its kind.