How Brazilian media oligopolies are chipping away at the traditional Chinese wall of editorial independence from the commercial side.
Been there. Done that. As have many Brazilian colleagues, such as J. Carlos de Assis. He confirms, though with only indirect evidence — Abril has no shareholders meetings to worry about and rarely releases financials — that politics and press are as intimate as the owl and the pussycat.
Suggestion to colleagues: get a better union. As to Abril, I would say that a major worry is the growth of its educational publishing division, in which it has invested heavily with M&A and blitzkrieg-lobbying the Congress about the criteria for educational materials. As I gather, they oppose expanding the choices of teachers in selecting authorized material from an expanded catalogue, giving small publishers a modest leg up.
In a related story is the series of strategic alliances Abril has made in the past few years — including Huffington. You could have knocked me over with a feather.
At any rate, it is time for me to shut up and translate.
The Abril media and publishing group is on the verge of bankruptcy. After undergoing two restructurings, one last year and another in second quarter of this year, with hundreds of layoffs, it now seeks to wash the bitter taste of failure out of its mouth with attacks on the sitting government, hoping that a new government, nominated by the group, will save its business.
A similar dynamic exists in the educational publishing sector, on which Abril has doubled down its bet. There is a hair-raising case study to be written of classic character assassination and crude but intense red-baiting during the years 2002-2014.
The source of all this vitriol is Abril and the Globo group, both of whom have experienced a slight decrease, or better, a disappointing growth, in official government advertising subsidies to political parties.
In its current reconfiguration, the Group has created, among four business units, the “News and Business” division. Of course it did. At Abril, news is business and business is news. And the manipulation of news is the business it is in. This is reason to place the two divisions under the command of a single executive. The two are joined at the hip. It reports news that yield profits and negotiates the news. The Grupo Abril has achieved perfection in its latest reincarnation. Its business structure reflects its journalistic ethics, to its peculiar stance on freedom of the press.
Dilma is paying a high price, in the form of a coup-planning legal and media conspiracy captained by Veja and Globo against her, for having reduced, though only slightly, the flow of public funds for political advertising to the enormous private fortunes of these two media groups, sources of the most vile, obscene attacks during the campaign.
In other words, the previous government did not interfere with public money budgeted for campaign-season TV advertising.
The reorganization of publicity budgets initiated during the Lula government was unfortunately not taken a step further under Dilma, but the mere threat of reform in this area in a second Dilma government put the coup plotters in a panic.
Equally alarming is a new regulatory code for the media, which terrifies the major media oligopolies, and especially the television industry. The fact is that the mere mention of regulation shakes all such businesses to their roots. After all, the structure of media oligopolies was what transformed mass communication into the playground of a handful of privileged families, using radio and TV, both of which function as concession contracts with the State.
An Aécio government, if it comes, will prove to be the savior of the Abril and Globo groups. Aécio literally bought approval for his government using a family member close to public advertising budgets, with support from most of the press in Minas Gerais, which is among the most corrupt press corps in Brazil, Victory in this election is a fat fish which, if it hooks a victorious center-right candidate, will amply feed the alligators in the press in general, but saving the best piece for the two institutions that, together with the Estadão and Folha, are fighting on the front lines of the pro-Aécio campaign.
Thus far, election coverage has not followed the Televisa Paradigm — the massive psyops effort behind the PAN candidate — and a brewing scandal at Petrobras does not appear to have moved voters. Next polling day: Tomorrow.
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