Digital TV not democratized: 73% of government authorizations

Two Christian broadcasters concentrate more than half of the 49 authorizations for digital TV channels in the Jair Bolsonaro government (no party): Fundação João Paulo II, with 22, and Televisão Independente de São José do Rio Preto Ltda, with five.

In Brazil, only those who already have licenses for the execution of the analogue broadcasting service can request permission from the Ministry of Communications to migrate to digital technology. This authorization is called a consignment.

Data obtained by Brazil in fact via the Access to Information Law show that 73.4% of consignments since January 1, 2019 have benefited religious channels. The list also includes stations linked to Father Reginaldo Manzotti and Evangelical pastors Valdemiro Santiago and RR Soares, for example. [Veja a relação completa no intertítulo Quem é quem]

missed opportunity

The definition of rules for the use of digital TV in Brazil was one of the topics under debate at the preparatory meetings for the 1st National Conference on Communication (Confecom), which took place in 2009.

Renata Mielli, general secretary of the Barão de Itararé Center for Alternative Media Studies, was a member of the National Forum for the Democratization of Communication (FNDC) executive for ten years and recalls the clashes surrounding the issue.

For the sectors that defended the democratization of communication, the migration to the digital should be accompanied by public policies that would increase the diversity of voices. Through public notices, for example, “community, public and other private channels could occupy the bands that would remain vacant in the spectrum.”, he explains.

“The television signal uses the electromagnetic spectrum, in certain frequency ranges. Digitization would allow for spectrum optimization. In other words, it would be possible to take advantage of the same frequency range used by a single station and distribute it to others, which could also have their channels, still ensuring an improvement in signal quality. If until then we had seven channels on open TV, digital technology would allow us to have 42, or even more.” reports.

The proposal faced resistance from private companies that already dominated the broadcasting sector before the technological transition. “Because that would increase competition, and they would lose their monopoly on speech,” interprets Mielli.

“The private sector said it was up to them to decide how they would use the multiprogram range. Or create several channels – Globo 1, Globo 2, Globo 3, etc – or keep a single channel with very high quality. And the decision that was taken at the time met those interests”, he laments.

The definition was made official during the second Lula (PT) government, when the Ministry of Communications came under the command of Hélio Costa, a former correspondent for Rede Globo.

Who is who

Headquartered in Cachoeira Paulista (SP), the João Paulo II Foundation is private, of a philanthropic nature, and exists since 1982. It is responsible for the channels of the Catholic community Canção Nova, with reach in 24 states.

The Independent Television of São José do Rio Preto Ltda is the legal name of Rede Vida, founded in 1995 with headquarters in São José do Rio Preto (SP) and covering 90% of the national territory.

Following the list of assignments for CNPJs linked to churches, appears the Sara Nossa Terra Foundation, by neo-Pentecostal bishops Robson Rodovalho and Maria Lúcia Rodovalho, from the Sara Nossa Terra Evangelical Community.

The station received three assignments, the same issue of Rádio e Televisão Rotioner Ltda, from the founder of the World Church of God’s Power, pastor Valdemiro Santiago.

One of the neo-Pentecostal leaders closest to Bolsonaro, Pastor Valdemiro made the news during the pandemic for selling beans promising a cure for covid-19 and for accompanying the president during his discharge from the Vila Nova Star Hospital, in São Paulo (SP), in June.

Valdemiro Santiago during an audience with Bolsonaro in July 2019 / Marcos Corrêa/PR

They each received a consignment to Televisão Cidade Modelo Ltda, from the missionary RR Soares, leader of the International Church of Grace of God; TV Evangelizar, linked to Catholic priest Reginaldo Manzotti, from Curitiba (PR); and the Catholic TVCI TV Comunicações Interativas Ltda, which broadcasts TV Pai Eterno programming in Paraná and is part of the Filhos do Pai Eterno Association, in Goiás.

In addition to the 36 consignments for stations linked to churches, the Bolsonaro government authorized 11 for commercial companies and two for public TVs.

Servisat Radiodifusão Ltda and TV Leste Ltda, affiliates of TV Record, whose owner is Bishop Edir Macedo, founder of the Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus, and which also received consignments, were not counted as religious broadcasters.

It’s not from today

Religious, evangelical and Catholic programs have been broadcast in Brazil since the 1940s, with expressive growth since the Federal Constitution of 1988.

In the first decade of the 21st century, according to a survey by researchers Janaína Aires and Suzy dos Santos, the number of TV concessions linked to religious entities jumped from 1,687 to 2,841.

Data from the Monitoring of Media Ownership in Brazil (MOM) showed that nine of the 50 vehicles with the highest audience in Brazil belonged to Catholic or Evangelical leaders in 2019. The study was carried out by the Intervozes collective in partnership with Repórteres sem Fronteiras in 2017 and updated two years later.

“This research also took place in other Latin American countries, and only in Brazil was this concentration so high in the hands of religious leaders”, observes Olívia Bandeira, coordinator of Intervozes and member of the Laboratory of Anthropology of Religion at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp ).

“In addition to the concessions, evangelical leaders are also present in other programming schedules, especially in open networks such as Record, RedeTV! and Band. That’s what we call lease, which is like renting the time of these stations,” adds Bandeira.

In April 2021, the Federal Court of Rio de Janeiro ordered Band to reduce the time allocated to religious institutions in programming. According to the Federal Public Ministry (MPF), the broadcaster rented 5 hours and 45 minutes of its programming daily to nine entities linked to Christian churches.

Misuse?

Despite the principle of complementarity between the private, public and state broadcasting systems, the Constitution does not establish equity guidelines in the use of spectrum.

The 1962 Brazilian Telecommunications Code prohibits political and religious proselytism on television.

The coordinator of Intervozes also criticizes the lack of transparency and public debate in the elaboration of the concessions, citing two events that show Bolsonaro’s organic link with Christian leaders.

“In April 2020, 21 religious leaders, some who have radio and TV stations, participated in the Easter videoconference, an initiative by Bolsonaro broadcast by TV Brasil”, he recalls.

“A few weeks later, a new meeting took place in Bolsonaro with owners of Catholic stations, also broadcast by TV Brasil. In this one, they demanded more investment from the government and more concessions for Catholic broadcasters. In return, they offered ‘positive media’ to the government. At the two meetings, there was, for example, Father Reginaldo Manzotti – who appears in the survey [do Brasil de Fato] about digital TV.”

Other side

The report questioned the Ministry of Communications about the lack of debate and transparency in the elaboration of the concessions and about the growing prevalence of Christian stations in the broadcasting spectrum in Brazil.

Through its press office, the folder reinforced that the digitalization of the TV signal does not have the power to change the panorama of entities that provide broadcasting services. It is just an update of the technology used in the transmission.

“In this way, the same legal entities that already held an analogue grant start transmitting their signal digitally. Therefore, there has been no change in the profile of TV concessionaires that can be attributed to the digitalization of the TV signal”, says the Ministry’s note.

“The selection of concessionaires is done by public notice, with objective criteria defined in laws and regulations. The process is transparent and can be consulted by anyone, under the terms of the Access to Information Law. Entities registered in the concession notices are treated with equality, without any preference for political, partisan, ideological, religious, philosophical, etc.”

The Ministry of Communications also pointed out that “the TV retransmission service (which allows the broadcasting of a generator’s signal in previously unreached locations) is granted according to technical availability, regardless of the content or market segment to which the requesting entity belongs. the authorization or generator of the signals. The content retransmitted must be identical to that of the concessionaire that generates the signal.”

“It is also worth mentioning that TV concessionaires cannot practice any form of discrimination, pursuant to art. 53, “e”, of the Brazilian Code of Communications.”

Finally, the folder informed that “a possible change in the concessions process must occur by the Legislative power, which is responsible for establishing the rules observed by the Ministry in its concessions policy.”

Edition: Anelize Moreira

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