NMM(-TV)SNB(B)CNN(P)BS: Notes on Infotainment Piracy in The Federal Republic of Robert Marinho

The week in TupiTube:

  1. a (one-source, reciting dubious industry numbers) report on piracy of infotainment products, including CDs and DVDs, in Brazil (where Windows Vista, Paraguayan Edition, beat the real thing to the stores by the better part of week);
  2. Globo’s Profession: Reporter (Antonioni ought to sue them for plagiarism) stages a real-life production of La Dolce Vita, enthusing over the fascinating life and times of Brazilian paparazzi (and death squad-apologist radio announcers); and
  3. some more background on the network TV wars, with a 1995 nuclear exchange between Globo and the rival Record.

The most astonishing thing to see here is Caco Barcellos restaging a scene from his 1993 work of investigative journalism, Rota 66: Policemen Who Kill, on summary executions by São Paulo “elite” police units.

Restaging that scene from his sobering indictment of murderous police misconduct as an infotainment farce.

The book makes it quite clear that Chico Plaza — himself employed by the police as a radio technician, which is how he gets access to equipment for the monitoring of police frequencies he uses to produce coverage of the caçã aos bandidos that remind you of that Schwarzenegger movie The Running Man — provides cover for and builds public support for this sort of conduct with his radio program, “Late Night (After Midnight) With God”

Which is (was) a bizarre mixture of prayer, religious music, ultrarightist vigilantist sermonizing, and live police journalism that actually bears a closer resemblance to sports announcing.

An academic paper by a semiotics professors at PUC São Paulo provides some background:

No caso de Madrugada com Deus, o programa mistura notícia com música, oração e conselhos de pastores evangélicos.

Chico Plaza’s program, “After Midnight with God,” mixes news, music, prayer and advice from evangelical pastors.

A entrada do repórter Chico Plaza, um deficiente visual, no ar se faz acompanhar pela sirene, idêntica a usada nos carros da Rota, seguida por um grito de louvação à polícia. Caco Barcellos relata que o som da sirene dura poucos segundos e vai sendo reduzido até dar lugar à voz que anuncia: “A polícia fala mais alto”.

When Chico Plaza comes on the air, his entrance is accompanied by a siren, identical to those used by ROTA squad cars, followed by a cry praising the police. Caco Barcellos reports that the sound of the siren lasts a few seconds, then fades out as a voice intones: “The police talk louder.”

Chico Plaza não é um repórter policial comum. Ele recebe e divulga a informação na madrugada em primeira mão, numa operação que envolve até um complexo sistema de alarmes ligado a mais de cem agências bancárias da Grande São Paulo. Essa responsabilidade da vigília noturna dos bancos, aliada a de repórter, permite ao radialista trabalhar num ambiente não muito comum ao dos seus colegas de profissão jornalística.

Chico Plaza is no ordinary police reporter. He receives and broadcasts information in the early morning hours at first hand, in an operation that even involves a complex system of alarms linked to more than 100 bank branches in the São Paulo metro area. This responsibility, as a night watchman for the banks, tied with his duties as reporter, enable the radio announcer to work in a unique environment.

Let me find my copy of Barcellos’ book — he reportedly had to leave the country after publishing it, and now works out of London — and reproduce some passages about the content of this unique programming.

I believe I read somewhere that only 1 in 6 qualified journalists — university degree in journalism plus registered with the Ministry of Labor as a journalist — has formal employment here.

Meanwhile, it is quite common on these days to see segments from Globo’s Fantástico uploaded to YouTube for which ad agencies take credit for placing, and even producing.

I am going to try to produce a thorough list one of these days, but I have showed you some in the past, such as the Fantástico segment on Second Life.

“Fake news” and “stealth marketing,” which are awfully controversial, even in the age of Bush, back in the homeland — see “FEMA Builds Potemkin Village For Wildfire Victims” — appear to be standard Globo “journalistic” practice.

Acquire content for free — generally from corporate or government publicity sources — throw your branding on it, add a voiceover and a cinematic soundtrack, and do not acknowledge the source.

Ecce Globo journalism.

That approach to news production — pay nothing, add no value, and charge $150,000 for a 30-second spot — itself seems sort of analogous to piracy, or counterfeiting, in a way.

There is a reason why Dante reserved the lowest circle of Hell for counterfeiters and forgers.

Which is why can kind of understand the attitude of the dissidents at FENAJ — the officially recognized national journalists’ union — trying to break the hold of these types of folks on what is essentially a pelêgo union.

“Thou shalt not engage in, encourage or countenance the use of informal labor in place of formal employment.” See

A very fundamental reform of the Vargas-era labor legislation is slated to be voted in March, I was just reading today.

That should be a political battle royale.

And not one unique to Brazil, either. See also

It is interesting to note here that the government news agency, Radiobras, is also susceptible to running one-source press-release rewrites.

Here, it features an industry lobbyist citing industry numbers which it does not reality check — at least not in this excerpt, posted to its Web site for download under a Creative Commons license.

The Radiobras journalistic mission statement rules out such one-sided treatment of public cases and controversies, and its ombudsman used to be pretty assiduous about calling shennanigans on such things.

Not that I am unsympathetic to the man’s message, mind you.

Pirate goods do get targeted regularly by law enforcement and the tax authority here, as part of a more general campaign aginst the corrupting power of black-market rent-seeking and the Great Sino-Paraguayan Silk Road — and the marching powder that keeps the traffic moving along smartly.

But you also see negotiations and direct action aimed at reducing the corrupting power of putatively “white market” rent-seeking. (And tax evasion.)

Which is — rent-seeking behavior — something of a national blood sport, it sometimes seems.

Which is why I bet you I could find you a contrasting point of view or two — including those who deem it highly unlikely that tax relief to entertainment media vendors would be passed on to the consumers.

You might well pay up to $R20 here, now, for a movie ticket to see Tropa de Elite, for example.

It is actually costs about the same, in absolute terms, to see movies in commercial theaters in San Francisco, California, as it does in São Paulo, Brazil, as we discovered recently.

But in São Paulo, average monthly head of household income exceeds US$500 in only eight of the city’s ten subprefectures.

Median income of San Francisco residents is over $57,000 a year. That is nearly 10 times more purchasing power.

You can buy a Paraguayan DVD of the film, in a rough, near-final cut, for R$10 (say, US$5.50).

Ten of you can chip in one BRR apiece and show it to all your friends. DVD players are quite cheap now. Our little gizmo was something like US$60 when we got it. It is, I think, a Positivo.

But why buy such a gizmo when the price of two or three DVDs might run as high as the cost of the machine? I paid nearly $US50 a while back, for example, for a collector’s edition of a vintge documentary on Baden Powell, Saravá, at the Livraria da Vila.

The same goes for CDs.

I saw the last disk from Caetano Veloso, — I did not much care for it, I thought it was over-the-top narcissistic and self-indulgement — going for R$60 (say, $30, at the time) in several shops.

I would find that price absurd and outrageous even at the Virgin Megastore on Park Avenue South or Times Square, back when my full-time job paid more than the median San Francisco annual average.

In Brazil, the broadcast media tend to bombard people with visions of objects and experiences they cannot afford to have, to be paid for with income from good jobs that don’t exist.

They simultaneously advocate summary executions for chicken thieves, while moralizing sternly on the sacredness of the right to be secure in one’s property.

You can see kind of see why that tends either to piss the milling, mulling mass of Tupis off, or else seriously confuse them.

It is, after all, a deeply schizogenic message.


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