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Television, popular culture and the Latin American and Brazilian identity

Extract from ‘Media and Politics in Latin America’ – Chapter 6

In the previous chapter, I examined the role that television played in Northern Europe and the UK, exploring major television and audience theories, starting from the Frankfurt School perspectives and the pessimistic stances regarding television, to the active audience and uses and gratification research tradition. The latter has gained ground amid the contestation of the complexities involved in the audiences‟ experience worldwide of reading media texts. In regards to UK broadcasting, I investigated the debates on what is understood by „quality‟ in both commercial and public broadcasting, and related this to the different ideological understandings of the diverse functions of the media in their relationship to democratization. The UFRJ results for instance underlined the audiences‟ acknowledgement of the importance and relevance of PSBs, although there is still a lot of uncertainty in Brazil on how precisely the public media can contribute to media pluralism and democratization.

This second chapter of Part III continues to interpret the responses from the online survey, engaging critically further with some examples of programmes produced by the public station TV Brasil. Following from the debates examined in the previous chapter and the contestation of the blurring of the genres offered in both the private and the public media, I have strived to examine here until what extent the programmes broadcast on the public television station can be considered more demanding for the viewer, stimulating a wider appreciation for culture and public debate. Taking into consideration the programming that is offered during peak time on TV Globo, including the soap operas and news broadcast Jornal Nacional, I have contrasted this to the themes and topics explored by the public television station in order to spot differences and similarities.

This chapter nonetheless also provides a brief critical debate on the role that telenovelas have had in both contributing to voice political resistance through particular sub-texts, in certain historical moments in Brazil, as well as how it has helped construct a specific national character and identity. I begin however by looking at international patterns of television flows, which increased since the 1970s and 1980s as a consequence of expanding deregulation trends, media commercialization and the numbers of transnational and cultural-linguistic audiences who are becoming dependent on the cultural products distributed by the global media. It also engages with key theoretical debates on the historical evolution of Latin America and Brazilian commercial broadcasting and the influence of the US model (i.e. Straubhaar, 2001; Fox, 1997; Lins da Silva, 1990).

A critical investigation of the roots of the „Brazilian‟ and „Latin American‟ identity is carried out here through a critical assessment of core post-colonialism and hybridity theories (i.e. Nederveen Pieterse, 2004). This chapter thus problematises the whole formation of the Brazilian national and cultural identity by attempting to analyse its roots in colonialism and in the racial order that has been established in the country, developed largely within an Eurocentric framework (i.e. Lesser, 1999; DaMatta, 1995). This is later juxtaposed to the idiosyncrasies of commercial Brazilian broadcasting, and the ways it has shaped particular Brazilian identities by excluding largely the country‟s multiple cultural, regional and ethnic compositions and privileging a particular white elite of the Rio-Sao Paulo axe.

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Dr. Carolina Matos
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Dr. Carolina Matos

Lecturer in Sociology at City, University of London
Carolina Matos is a Lecturer at the Department of Sociology, City University London. She was previously a part-time lecturer at the Government Department at Essex University. Former Fellow in Political Communications at the LSE, Matos obtained her PhD in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths College and has taught and researched in the UK in political communications, media and politics at the University of East London (UEL), St. Mary’s College and Goldsmiths.

Matos is the author of Journalism and political democracy in Brazil (Lexington Books, 2008) and Media and politics in Latin America: globalization, democracy and identity (I.B. Tauris, 2012), which won the Premio Jabuti 2014 prize, first category in communications. She is also Director of the Jeremy Tunstall Global Media Research Centre at the Department of Sociology, City University London, and also teaches on gender and development at the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS), a think thank in London.
Dr. Carolina Matos
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