“This Tube is Our Tube”: Intervozes Clamors for a Spanking of the Spaniards


“More ‘oranges’ [cut-outs, fronts, Abramoffs, shills] of Renan!” The sex senator illegally controlled two radio stations!
Veja taking up the standard agaisnt concentrated media ownership is like billionaire Bruce Wayne leading the fight against vigilantes operating jet-powered automobiles on Gotham City streets. Which does not mean, of course, that wresting the media from the control of machine politics is not a worthy end in itself. Secondary coverline: “Infrastructure: The war that must be won!” The debate over public policy is war. Violence is a natural part of the political process. Ecce Veja.

Intervozes lança abaixo-assinado por CPI das TVs por assinatura: The (Ford Foundation-funded, as is the Observatório da Imprensa) Intervozes responds to what it says is a concerted Grupo Abril lobby to quash a congressional probe of its sale — Abril says the deal is technically a “strategic partnership,” not a transfer of control — of São Paulo’s TVA cable operator to Telefônica.

“Technically speaking, it is not illegal” shall be the highest standard of ethical accountability. Recall J.J. Rendón:

“As long as it is not against the law, I have no scruples.”

See also

These poor Brazilians ought to change their national motto from “order and progress” to that, it sometimes seems to me. Truth in advertising.

See also

Intervozes thinks the concession of UHF Channel 42 by the Ministry of Communications was illegal, by the way, according to an editorial prominently displayed on its Web site today.

Estamos diante de mais um caso de “faroeste” no campo das comunicações no Brasil. Agora, o Grupo Abril deflagrou uma campanha para desarticular a CPI que irá investigar a compra da TVA pela Telefônica. Utilizando seu principal veículo de informação, a revista Veja, a empresa joga pesado contra os parlamentares que assinaram o requerimento. Achando pouco, a Abril colocou lobistas e funcionários próprios para percorrer os gabinetes pressionando os deputados a retirar suas assinaturas.

We are faced with another case of the “wild, wild west” in the Brazilian media sector today. Now, Abril has launched a campaign to foil the congressional commission of inquiry (CPI) that was going to probe the purchase of TVA by Telefónica. Using its flagship publication, Veja magazine, the company is playing hardball against lawmakers who signed the petition to install the probe. Thinking little of it, Abril set its lobbyists and employees scurrying through the halls of congress, pressuring federal deputies to withdraw their signature.

Essa campanha só reforça a necessidade de instalação da CPI, além dar mais motivos para enterrar o mito da imparcialidade no jornalismo brasileiro.

This campaign only reinforces the need to install the CPI, as well as providing reasons to bury the myth of the impartiality of the Brazilian news media once and for all.

O que teme a Abril? Provavelmente, a empresa não quer que venham à tona as irregularidades da operação que, na prática, entregou o controle da ComercialCabo para uma empresa estrangeira, o que é proibido pela lei 8.977/95.

What is Abril afraid of? It probably does not want the irregularities in the deal, which effectively transfers control of ComericalCabo to a foreign firm, which is prohibited under Law 8,977 of 1995, to surface.

If I recall correctly, that law increased the stake foreign firms could take in Brazilian broadcasters.

Federal deputies Bornhausen Jr. and Magalhães III, I read — the shiny, happy poster children of the “sure, our daddies were the nastiest expressions of antidemocratic coronelismo in history, but we have resolved our Oedipal issues through psychoanalysis” New Democrats — have been lobbying hard to remove the ban and let Disney and Murdoch in to interpret global reality for the Tupi viewer.

Which very well might be a bit like letting the Iranian mullahs buy a controlling stake in ABC with their petroeuros.

What with the reputation we gringos now have abroad, despite the best efforts of Karen “den mother to the great unwashed” Hughes, as having handed over our country to people who are utterly psychotic.

You watch enough of this sludge and you can kind of see the point these people are making. This is their country, after all. If they leave us alone, maybe we should return the favor.

No momento em que uma empresa de mídia utiliza seu poder político para tentar proteger seus interesses, o Congresso brasileiro tem de afirmar sua independência e não pode se dobrar ao poder dessa grande corporação. É verdade que a denúncia das irregularidades feita por Renan Calheiros é uma retaliação à campanha da Abril pela sua cassação. O senador nada tem de inocente e reagiu à denúncia – aparentemente verdadeira – de que ele faz uso de laranjas para manter uma rádio em Alagoas. Mas é verdade também que isso não interfere nada nos fatos. O que interessa é saber se houve ou não irregularidades na operação de compra da TVA pela Telefônica. E há indícios de que houve irregularidades não consideradas pela Anatel ao aprovar a operação.

At a time when a media corporation is using its political power to try to protect its own interests, the Brazilian congress has to affirm its independence and not bow to the power of this big corporation. It is true that the charges by Calheiros regarding irregularities in the deal come in reprisal for a campaign by Abril to [bork the President of the Senate]. The Senator is no innocent, and was reacting to the charge — which is apparently true — that he used “cut-outs” to own a radio station in Alagoas. What matters, however, is whether there were irregularities in the TVA deal or not. And there are signs that there were, irregularities not taken into account by Anatel when it approved the deal.

CADE, the antitrust regulator, still has to sign off as well, I think I understand. I believe that a rewriting of the shareholder agreement was required of the deal participants.

Pela legislação atual, o limite de capital estrangeiro em uma empresa de TV a cabo é 49%. Embora a venda da TVA respeite esse limite, ela estabelece uma cláusula no contrato apontando a necessidade de uma ‘reunião prévia’ dos acionistas preferenciais, que deve ter seu resultado seguido pela reunião de acionistas com direito a voto. Na prática, vincula as decisões da empresa às decisões da Telefônica, passando o controle à empresa espanhola.

Under current law, the limit on foreign stakes in a cable TV company is 49%. Though the sale of TVA respects this limit, it contains a clause requiring a “prior meeting” of the preferred (non-voting) shareholders, followed by a meeting by holders of voting shares. In practice, this ties decision-making at the firm to decisions taken by Telefónica, passing effective control to the Spanish company.

These Spanish conglomerates get up to some really, really insane things, too, I am beginning to think.

(“ETA did 11-M!”)

A prática não é nova nem exclusiva do Grupo Abril. A primeira empresa a usar brechas legais para vender sua operadora de cabo para o capital estrangeiro foi a Globo, que vendeu a quase totalidade das ações preferenciais (sem direito a voto) e cerca de 38% das ações ordinárias (com direito a voto) da NET Serviços para a Embratel (leia-se Telmex). Mas a Globo usou uma empresa chamada GB (que era usada anteriormente pela Globo e o Bradesco – daí o nome) e lhe “entregou” 51% das ações da NET Serviços. O problema é que o capital da GB agora está dividido em 49% para a Telmex e 51% para a Globo. Assim, na prática, a Telmex é a acionista majoritária da NET Serviços, a despeito da proibição da Lei da TV a cabo (8.977/95). A transação da Globo foi aprovada pela Anatel. A Abril fez a mesma coisa, mas foi menos sutil; mesmo assim, também teve sua operação aprovada.

The practice is not new, or confined to Abril. The first company to use legal loopholes to sell its cable operator to foreign investors was Globo, which sold nearly all its non-voting preferred shares and nearly 38% of its voting shares in NET Serviços to Embratel (that is, to Carlo Slim’s Telmex). But Globo used a company called GB (once used for a partnership with Bradesco, hence the acronym) and “handed over” 51% of the shares in NET Serviços to it. The problem is that 49% of GB’s capital is now controlled by Telmex and 51% by Globo. In pratice, therefore, Telmex is the majority shareholder in NET Serviços, in violation of the Cable TV Law of 1995. Globo’s deal was approved by Anatel. Abril did the same thing, but was less subtle about it; even so, it also had its deal approved.

No caso da Telefônica, há ainda um outro problema. Em São Paulo, além da proibição prevista na Lei do Cabo, existe outra, que está na Lei Geral de Telecomunicações (LGT) e que diz que uma empresa concessionária de telefonia fixa não pode estar no bloco de controle de uma operadora de TV a cabo, o que se configura com a posse de 20% das ações ordinárias. Então, especificamente no estado de São Paulo, a Telefônica só pode ter 19,99% das ações ordinárias da TVA.

In the Telefónica case, there is another problem. In São Paulo, apart from the prohibition contained in the Cable TV Law, there is another ban, from the General Telecommunications Law, which says that a fixed telephony concession-holder cannot be part of the controlling block of shareholders in a cable TV operator — that is, cannot own 20% of the ordinary shares. Thus, in the State of São Paulo, Telefonica can only own 19.99% of the ordinary shares of TVA.

A resolução 101 da Anatel, que baliza a análise sobre esse tipo de operação, tem elementos para que se impeça esse tipo de transação. Com todos esses indícios, a investigação sobre essas operações se torna inadiável. Mesmo frente a esse quadro, a soberba do Grupo Abril é tamanha que eles alegam que a CPI ameaça a liberdade de imprensa. Ora, uma empresa de mídia não pode ser investigada? Em nome dessa “liberdade de imprensa” (na realidade, liberdade de empresa) deve-se abafar todos os indícios de irregularidades em meios de comunicação? Só a reação da Abril já justifica a instalação da CPI. Quem teme, provavelmente deve.

Anatel Resolution No. 101, which closely and cautiously analyzes this type of deal, contains findings supporting a decision to turn this type of deal down. With all these elments, an investigation into these deals has become urgent and inevitable. Even so, Abril’s arrogance is so great that it alleges that the CPI is a threat to the freedom of the press. What, a media firm cannot be investigated? In the name of this “freedom of the press” (which in reality entails “freedom for the corporation” to do as it likes), we are supposed to cover up all signs of irregularities committed by media businesses? Abril’s response alone justifies the installation of a CPI. If they fear it, well, it’s probably because they have good reason to.

Quem não deve, não teme: You hear cops saying this a lot. It has something of a sinister ring to it.

O episódio é revelador da dimensão do poder dos grandes grupos de mídia enquanto atores políticos e de como a lógica econômica predomina em detrimento do interesse público no campo das comunicações. Evidencia também a leniência do poder público para lidar com as burlas legais encontradas pelas grandes empresas. Resta saber se o Congresso brasileiro se dobrará diante dessa chantagem. Os abaixo assinados esperam que não.

The episode is revealing of how much power the media congomerates of Brazil have over political actors, while the logic of the marketplace predominates to the detriment of the public interest in the media sector. It also lays bare the lenience of public officials in dealing with the legal workarounds employed by large corporations. What remains to be seen is whether Congress will bow down to this blackmail. The undersigned hope it will not.

I tend to think that the best end game for Abril at this point is to let the deal be probed, then lobby for (1) letting the deal go through, while (2) agreeing to support an “Globo-Abril Law” that makes sure it does not happen again, that the loophole is closed.

After all, this is what Congressional commissions are supposed to do, right?

Not necessarily to punish violations of the law — judges and prosecutors do that — but rather to discover situations where there ought to be a law, as we say. But there isn’t.

Idle free advice. I think you would be foolish to bet on Abril behaving like a rational actor rather than a gabbling font of Lacerdist claptrap, however.

These people seem to have the primitive intellectual equipment of sharks.

Swim forward with your mouth open.

Repeat until death.

Being a monopolist means never having to adapt and overcome.

Which tends, in the fullness of time, to make you stupider.

Didn’t Adam Smith say that?

Isn’t that why Warren Buffet, as the fable goes, made his kids go out and get a job on their own initiative?

The legacy admissions have had their chance. They screwed the pooch. Stick a fork in ’em.

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