Paulo Henrique Amorim on Globo & the Coup

On a recent episode of Al Jazeera’s program, The Listening Post, Paolo Ganino shows how Brasil’s largest media corporation, Rede Globo, did not merely cover the anti-government protests of 2015 that built a pretext to the flawed impeachment process against President Dilma Rousseff (which reputable publications such as Der Speigel, LeMonde and El Pais are all referring to as a Coup d’etat or Soft Coup), they repeatedly broke into regularly scheduled programming and invited Brazilians to come out and participate.

One of the people interviewed on the program is legendary author, TV and print journalist Paulo Henrique Amorim.

Amorim is one of the most respected television and print journalists in Brasil. With a career that spans from 1961 to the present, he has covered some of the most important events in Brazil and the World for publications, many of which he later had disagreements with over questions of censorship, including Veja Magazine, Rede Bandeirantes, Record and Rede Globo. During the events leading up to his fall out with Globo during the 1990s he became a vocal critic of the small number of wealthy families who control the Brasilian media. These criticisms have continued to reach large audiences to this day on the pages of Carta Capital magazine and on his blog Conversa Afiada, which has 450,000 followers on Twitter. Since 2006 he has hosted the weekly news magazine show Domingo Espetacular, currently the second most popular program of its kind in Brasil. He is the author of a new bestseller, O Quarto Poder (the Fourth Power) — possibly the best insider analysis of Brazilian Media hegemony ever written. Last month he gave a long interview to Al Jazeera for The Listening Post. The program can be seen in its entirety here. Paolo Ganino and Paulo Henrique Amorim were kind enough to pass over the transcripts to Brasil Wire, so that we could run this interview — so important in light of this Coup — in its entirety.

Paolo Ganino: I can fight with the Pope, with the Catholic Church, with PMDB, with anyone, but I will not fight with Doctor Roberto” How is it possible that during Brazil’s democratic transition president-elect Neves was willing to face powerful institutions, including the main political party and the Catholic Church, but would not dare to challenge the interests of media mogul Roberto Marinho?

Paulo Amorim: Because he had the right perception, which was, and is, the Globo is the first and most powerful power in this country. It’s more important than the parties, more important than the church. Actually the Editor in Chief for the evening news at Globo is the most powerful politician in this country.

Ganino: What makes Globo ‘Brazil’s most powerful company’ as The Economist magazine put it?

Amorim: Because in Brazil, there are no rules for the communications industry. The rules regulating the communication business in Brazil today were written and approved in 1962.

Ganino: Globo endorsed the military coup of 1964 and Rede Globo started a year after the dictatorship took power. Critics called Globo the “unofficial ministry of propaganda”. Does the term still apply, and if so on whose behalf is Globo working?

Paulo Amorim: We are in the jungle and in the jungle the lion rules and owns the game. Globo is the second largest commercial TV network in the world, second only to the American ABC. It reaches 98% of the Brazilian territory, it has 124 broadcasters around the country. It’s the largest Latin American communication business conglomerate and it has approximately 60% of the advertising business in this country. There is no private television company as powerful as Globo in any other democracy around the World.

Ganino: Globo apologized for backing the military government in 1964. But critics say that the editorial seemed to devote much more space to defending its legacy than to apologizing. Why did Globo feel the need to apologies after five decades? And why was the apology published in print and not aired on TV? The latter reaches a much larger audience.

Amorim: Globo is the official propaganda ministry of Brazil. Globo TV was found in 1965 and only 49 years later it apologized for supporting, for backing the military dictatorship. And did that only because the Brazilian streets were crowded with youngsters, crying against the government and against Globo as well. And afraid of having any retaliation, they said, “Well, we apologize” 49 years later. But actually, in 2013, when the streets were crowded, people went out, Globo moved and directed the people in the streets to depose the government. The anchors at Globo, told the people, “Go this way, and not that way. Go to the Maracanã Stadium, close the bridge…” They directed the the masses in the street. Moved by hypocrisy, they were trying to save their own skin. What I can remember about the editorial apologizing for their role in the dictatorship was that it came out as a piece of hypocrisy in the sense that no other company in this country gained more from the military than Globo. Globo was founded as a front, Globo was actually a company of the American group Time-life. But the Brazilian constitution said that no foreign company could own a commercial television network. So then the military dictatorship paid Globo, paid it’s owner Roberto Marinho to buy back the stock that Time Life company had in Globo. How they do it? They advertised massively at Globo. And so we Brazilian citizens subsidized the owner of Globo to buy back the the stock that the American Time Life corporation had in Globo. And then Globo became the official voice of the dictatorship. The military had to build a telecommunications connection. It was strategic. They had to socially control the country through telecommunications. And they needed something like Globo to spread the news, to say everything was going fine. And that’s what Globo did. In reverse, Globo received a license to print money. When I say they have a license to print money I’ll give you just a few figures. Last year, 2015, the revenues of Globo were around 3, 3.4 billion dollars. Last year the profits were 1 billion dollars which means that he profits are one third of the revenues. That is license to print money. And the profits of Globo are roughly equivalent to the revenues of its three largest competitors.

Ganino: In 1989 Globo heavily edited its presidential debate in favor of conservative candidate Fernando Collor, who went on to defeat Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva before being impeached on charges of corruption.

Amorim: Run everything that is good for Collor, everything that is bad for Lula. That was what the owner of the company said to the editors.

Ganino: The British documentary “Beyond Citizen Kane” focused on Globo’s power in Brazil and the 1989 debate. The network first tried to buy the rights to the film. When it failed, the military police confiscated movie posters and copies of the film. Talk to us about this incident and Globo’s approach to negative coverage.

Amorim: Actually, what Globo did besides that was try to buy all the copies of the documentary outside of Brazil. At the time I was working with Globo TV New York, and the President of Globo International New York company was ordered to buy every available copy of the documentary he could find, wherever it was.

Ganino: Why did they do this?

Amorim: Because Globo had the control and still has the control over what people say about it. There’s a saying in Brazilian politics which goes, “If Globo’s evening news didn’t show it, it didn’t happen.” That’s the policy that still goes on, and that’s the policy this interim government is actually trying to follow. And now with the Internet and the social media it’s much harder than to buy the copies of a documentary. And people actually can go to the Internet and go through You Tube and have it. Things have changed, but not much.

Ganino: Five families own 70% of Brazil’s mainstream media. But no other outlet can really compete with the dominance of Globo and the Marinho’s in term of ratings and revenue — an estimated 60% of all advertising expenditures in Brazil are spent on Globo television channels. Talk to us about Globo’s relation with its competitors.

Amorim: Globo is like an octopus. Globo has eight different companies in all forms of communication, TV, Pay TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and all that. They have interest in real estate and also own record companies. And after Globo comes the Folha de São Paulo, which is a newspaper and an Internet portal. Then comes the

Estado de São Paulo, with both a newspaper and Internet portal, and a weekly magazine called Veja. But the three others are not as strong as Globo. Actually, when you talk of the Brazilian media, you’re talking Globo. And let me tell you another thing. Six percent of the Brazilian government’s advertising money goes to Globo. Plus, of every dollar invested in advertising in this country, 35 cents go to Globo- one single company, one family owned company that is not listed in the stock market. So there is zero transparency.

Ganino: Globo owns or is affiliated with 340 media outlets. Outside the major urban centers, affiliates usually are owned by politicians or well-connected businessmen. For instance, the families of two former presidents, José Sarney and Fernando Collor, control local Globo affiliates in their home states. How does that affect regional coverage?

Amorim: There is 100% political manipulation through the local evening news. The owners play the political game through their television systems. And if you have a license to reproduce Globo programs in one state you have a license to build different regional stations around the state. And so you control the local politics in the entire state.

I will tell you a story. Right after the military dictatorship, the President was sworn in. The communications minister was a guy who came out of the military to be the new communications minister. He was the guy who bought all the telephone equipment for the country because the telephone system was a state enterprise. He bought everything he wanted from one company to the other. And then he decided he would never buy equipment from a Japanese company called NEC again. And so the Brazilian operations of the Japanese NEC company went broke. They came to this minister, and they said, “What happened?” And he said, “I want your company.” So they sold this company to the owner of TV Globo. And Globo became the owner of a telephone equipment company called NEC. Why? Because Globo made a deal with the communications minister. They said, “Give me NEC and I’ll give you the power to

transmit Globo in your state.” And this is the guy, [Antonio Carlos Magalhaes] who said, “If Globo’s evening news doesn’t show it, it never happened.” Imagine what he did in his home state [of Bahia].

Ganino: The habit of “appointment viewing” has declined worldwide with the rise of on demand video, but Brazilians still tune in devoutly every evening to watch soap operas. And in between telenovelas there’s Jornal Nacional, the news show almost every Brazilian watches. Talk to us about the importance of that TV slot and JN’s style and output.

Amorim: The lion’s about to die but it’s still dangerous. Globo averages around 14% in the ratings today. But they lost around 40% of their ratings over the last decade. The evening news lost 50% in the last ten years. The ratings are going down since there is now competition but even so Globo and the evening news continue to set the country’s political agenda and frame the political discussion. In my blog I say that Globo is the lighthouse. Every evening at 8 o’clock the light goes on and shows the way, shows the path to the pirate boats. The boats that will depose Dilma Rousseff. The different boats that were working together to depose a President elected by the Brazilian people with 54 million votes. They didn’t know what to do. They were somewhat lost in the high seas. But then, the light comes out, and they have the route, the way. ‘This is how you’re going to depose her’. And they did it. As far as the style of the Jornal Nacional goes, they tried to copy the American evening news. They build their own system, they build their own benchmarks and their own style but they basically do what the US does- the technology, the way the reporters and anchors work and the stories are edited. So it’s very much influenced by the American television system. But, it’s not exactly like that because there is only one voice that speaks. I’ll tell you another story. Ex-president Lula is not allowed to have his own voice on Journal National. When Lula is shown there is the voice-over. There’s a voice over his voice, so his voice never comes over the air on Globo. If Lula spoke Italian or Swahili, the Brazilian public would never know, except for the official public programs on television that come out every election season according to Brazilian law. Besides that, you cannot hear Lula’s voice. He’s mute.

Ganino: In March, Globo suspended its regular programming to cover protests against Dilma’s government across the country. Did the network play a role in Dilma’s ousting? Please point us to specific examples of coverage

Amorim: Well, Globo did and continues to do that, not only on it’s commercial operation, but also at the Pay TV operation. Globo has around the clock TV, or the Pay TV, it’s called Globo News, it’s CNN. And it covers the manifestations all the time, non-stop. And sometimes it also does this on the commercial broadcast. But the basic point is that Globo has one side, has one side, only one side. And TV is still the major way Brazilians learn the news. For two basic reasons: first, the, the connections for the cell phones are still very expensive, and the system is not national.

So, a lot of people cannot reach the news coming out of anything except Globo. They watch television, they watch Globo, because its their only available source or because they have just seen the soap opera or they’re waiting for the next soap opera to begin. That’s why we say that Jornal Nacional in the middle of a sandwich-it doesn’t have a life of it’s own.

Ganino: João Roberto Marinho wrote in The Guardian that “to blame the press for the current Brazilian political crisis, or to suggest that it serves as an agitator, is to repeat the ancient mistake of blaming the messenger for the message”. What’s your take on that?

Amorim: He’s a very modest man. He’s trying to be humble. He knows he has the strings behind the scenes.

Ganino: How is Globo covering the continuous scandals in the interim Temer government? Is it giving anti-Temer protests the same prominence it gave to the anti-Dilma ones? Please point us to specific examples of coverage

Amorim: It’s the different between hell and heaven. Whatever Dilma did was hell, was the work of the devil. Now we have a group of saints, working at the Brazilian White house. Actually, they are all suspect of very serious crimes and that includes the entering president. My own blog, has denounced and shown a lot of articles showing how he manipulated political expenses without due registry in the Brazilian electoral courts. These contributions were made on the side and he is suspected of using that money for his own party. For these crimes he’s been banned from running for public office. He’s not allowed to be a candidate any more. And think about that — the interim President of the Republic cannot be a candidate for anything, not even for the city council according to the Brazilian law. And he runs the country. Let me tell you another thing. When, when the, the Attorney General concluded that Dilma didn’t not commit any crime it was not news on Journal National- they didn’t show it. So it didn’t happen… [LAUGHS]

Ganino: After initial hesitations, the majority of foreign media started describing Dilma’s impeachment as a coup. Epoca (Globo owned current affairs magazine) accused the NYT and the foreign media in general of being bribed by the left and suggested the foreign press corps should move to Venezuela. What does this say about Globo’s positioning in the impeachment debate?

Amorim: To be fair, that was not Globo it was a columnist, and of course it was a joke, it was seen as a joke. But the fact of the matter is, that this interim government cannot leave the country for two basic reasons. One is that many of them can be jailed by Interpol if they step out of the country. And second, they cannot speak by themselves and say it was not a coup because nobody would believe them. As I say in my blog, they cannot leave the toilet. It’s what happened to one their ministers. He got out of the the plane at the airport. And when people saw him and started to shout against him he hid himself in the toilet, in the men’s room. And I say in my blog, they cannot leave the men’s room. I emphasize the men’s room because there are no women in their cabinet.

Ganino: In the past decade, most leftist governments in Latin America have been redrawing media rules through controversial reforms — aimed, they say, at breaking monopolies and democratizing the media market. Is their any sign of that happening in Brazil? If not, why not? Has the impeachment been the prize for the PT’s inactivity on this front?

Amorim: Lula and Dilma didn’t even try to face Globo. They were, and are, afraid of Globo. They didn’t challenge Globo. And that is Lula and Dilma’s biggest mistake. They saw it coming, but they couldn’t react. They gave them money, a lotta money, as I told you. Sixty percent of the federal advertising money, and still, they didn’t face it. They built their own demise.