Colombian TV: Caracol Fires Up the Wayback Machine


Contrary to what many have thought for years now, two things are clear: That viewers want something more from national TV than soaps and “reality shows.”

Televisión e historia: Semana magazine (Colombia) boasts of the success of a documentary series it co-produced with TV Caracol:

El éxito de ‘¡Colombia Vive! Memorias de un país sin memoria’, producido por ‘Caracol’ y SEMANA, mostró que la audiencia quiere temas de fondo que formen ciudadanos.

The success of Colombia Lives! Memoirs of a nation without memory, produced by Caracol and Semana, showed that viewers want to watch programs on fundamental issues that help to create citizens.

We saw a surprisingly good documentary recently, from TV Cultura here in Brazil, on the history and current dynamic of the FARC, the narc, and the state in Colombia.

Still taboo subjects, however: Parapolitics and narco-infilitration of the state. Which were pretty signficant omissions. The documentary was mildly lobotomized in that sense, I thought.

On a related note: La Jornada (Mexico) reports that Cuban TV will show a documentary about baseball players who have defected to the United States, in which the players will reportedly make the case they have been unfairly branded as traitors by Beard supporters.

En los últimos días un programa ganó una apuesta que pocos se atreven a hacer en el país: convocar la atención de la audiencia hacia un tema de fondo. El documental ¡Colombia Vive! Memorias de un país sin memoria hizo un esfuerzo sin precedentes por rescatar la memoria nacional de los últimos 25 años y puso en contexto los procesos más importantes que vivió Colombia durante esa convulsionada época, que resulta imprescindible para entender el presente.

In recent days the program has won a bet that few have dared to make here in Colombia: Attracting the attention of viewers to a fundamental topic. The documentary Colombia Lives! Memoirs of a nation without memory made an unprecedented effort to recover the national memory of the last 25 years, putting into context the most significant processes Colombia has experienced during this turbulent period, which are indispensable for understanding the present.

This argument would be strengthened if Semana were to print hard numbers on the ratings the program received. Here it comes:

A pesar de que al comenzar las emisiones, el 7 de enero pasado (lunes festivo), el país aún estaba disperso en su temporada de vacaciones, los televidentes mostraron gran interés por esta producción de SEMANA y el canal Caracol. Eso quedó en evidencia con los extraordinarios niveles de audiencia registrados. El martes pasado, en una franja posterior a la estelar, cerca de cuatro millones y medio de televidentes siguieron el segundo capítulo, titulado ‘El terror’. “Ese nivel de recepción es algo increíble”, dijo Camilo Durán, directivo del canal Caracol. Lo que es más sorprendente, según cuenta Durán, es que han recibido “cientos de llamadas de gente interesada en tener en su casa el documento completo”.

Even though the Colombian audience was still dispersed on vacation when the program debuted on January 7, viewers showed a great interest in the Semana-Caracol production. This was obvious from the extraordinary ratings it received. Last Tuesday, in a post-prime time slot, nearly 4.5 million viewers tuned in the second chapter, titled “The Terror.” “This level of audience is incredible,”said Durán, director of Caracol. What is most surprising, Durán says, is that Caracol received “hundreds of calls from people interested in have a complete copy of the documentary for home viewing.”

And what share does that represent? The Brazilian IBOPE seems to want to occupy the role of the Colombian Nielsen & Co., but as the OI observed in 2003, Colombian beancounters questioned its accuracy. I digress:

Menos de três meses após ter problemas na Argentina, onde chegou a suspender seus serviços, o Ibope está agora sendo questionado na Colômbia. A medição de audiência da multinacional brasileira, que atua em 13 países, foi reprovada por auditoria da Universidade Nacional da Colômbia.

Less than three months after having problems in Argentina, where its services were suspended at one point, IBOPE is now being questioned in Colombia. The Brazilian multinational’s audience measurement service, which operates in 13 countries, was rebuked by an audit conducted by the National University.

Segundo o relatório da universidade, a amostra do Ibope no país apresenta ‘confiabilidade abaixo do que se considera aceitável estatisticamente’. De posse da auditoria, a RCN, segunda maior audiência do país, suspendeu a compra dos serviços do Ibope.

According to the University report, IBOPE’s audience sampling presents “reliability below what is considered statistically acceptable.” When it received a copy of the audit results, RCN, the second-largest network in the country by audience, stopped buying IBOPE services.

O Ibope mede a audiência na Colômbia por meio de 1.400 aparelhos instalados em 900 domicílios nas seis principais regiões do país. Segundo a auditoria, desses domicílios, só 720 forneceram dados no período pesquisado, o que comprometeria a medição.

IBOPE measures audience in Colombia through 1,400 devices installed in 900 homes in the six principal regions of the country. According to the audit, of these households, only 720 furnished data in the period under study, which compromised the accuracy of the measurements.

Ana Lucia Lima, diretora do Ibope Mídia Internacional, diz que a inspeção foi feita por um grupo não especializado nesse tipo de auditoria, que não levou em conta ser comum parte da base não fornecer dados por problemas técnicos (como falta de luz).

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A executiva critica o academicismo dos auditores, apontando ‘dissonância entre teoria pura e prática’ e ‘equívocos de interpretação’. Segundo Lima, só a Ernst & Young tem reputação internacional nesse tipo de auditoria. ‘O procedimento do Ibope na Colômbia é adotado e aprovado nos outros países, inclusive EUA.’

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End digression. Returning to Semana‘s self-congratulatory blurb:

Al contrario de lo que muchos piensan desde hace años, dos cosas quedan claras: que los espectadores quieren encontrar en la televisión nacional algo más que novelas y realities. Y que todo el país está ávido por conocer o repasar la historia reciente. Esa es precisamente la oportunidad que brinda este documental. A través de estremecedoras imágenes y testimonios, los más jóvenes pueden observar por primera vez importantes episodios de la historia reciente, y los mayores, transportarse al momento de su vida cuando ocurrió un determinado acontecimiento.

Contrary to what many have thought for years now, two things are clear: That viewers want something more from national TV than soaps and “reality shows.” And that the country as a whole is eager to learn about and review the nation’s recent history. This is precisely the opportunity this documentary gives them. Through startling images and testimony, younger people can observe for the first time imporant episodes in recent history, while older viewers can travel back to a time in their lives when a given event took place.

Lo que queda en evidencia es que el país y los canales deberían tomar más en serio el periodismo televisivo. Las productoras tienen el deber de ofrecer, además de entretenimiento, contenidos que aporten a la opinión pública no sólo la inmediatez, sino el análisis y el desarrollo de procesos y fenómenos más complejos. El crítico Omar Rincón opina que los esfuerzos en ese campo se han quedado cortos y las franjas de verdadero periodismo fueron devoradas por las telenovelas. “Lo poco que queda de periodismo televisivo no va más allá de la noticia y el registro. Las grandes historias periodísticas no se ven. ¿Dónde está el gran reportaje televisivo que necesitamos urgentemente sobre el proceso de Justicia y Paz?”, pregunta.

What is clear is that Colombia, and the TV networks, ought to take TV journalism more seriously. Producers have the duty to offer, besides entertainment, content that brings more to public opinion than just the issues of the day, with analysis and coverage of how more complex processes and phenomena have developed over time. Critic Omar Rincón believes that efforts in this area have been short-lived and that programming blocks dedicated to real journalism have been devoured by soap operas. “What little remains of TV journalism does not go beyond registering the daily news. You don’t see the big-picture stories anymore. Where is the big-picture story now that the Justice and Peace process requires it so urgently?” he asks.

On Rincón:

Omar Rincón é jornalista, pesquisador, professor, analista de meios de comunicação e realizador em televisão. Dirige o Centro de Competência em Comunicação para América Latina da Fundação Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES). Na Universidad Javeriana, coordena o curso de pós-graduação em televisão. Na Universidade dos Andes, a pós-graduação em jornalismo. É colunista de meios de comunicação do diário El Tiempo e professor convidado na Universidad Internacional de Andalucía, Espanha e na Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, no Equador.

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Por supuesto, no se trata de brindar un producto aburrido. La televisión por esencia es entretenimiento. Como lo señala Rincón, las grandes historias que tanta falta hacen en el menú televisivo tienen que lograr atrapar a los espectadores, y para ello no hay más truco que la calidad. “Al documental que vimos le falta un poco de trabajo en el guión, pero las imágenes de archivo son tan fuertes, que lograron configurar una realidad que captura”, dice. Además del esfuerzo por abrirle espacio y protagonismo al periodismo en la pantalla chica, hay hacia adelante un reto mayor por hacerlo con calidad. Colombia ya demostró que puede producir telenovelas de talla mundial, y ahora está en mora de empezar a hacer un periodismo televisado que investigue, narre, documente y explique una realidad tan compleja como la nacional.

Naturally, we are not talking about a boring program. Entertainment is the essence of television. As Rincón points out, the big-picture stories that are so sorely lacking from the TV menu must successfully attract audiences, and for that purpose, need only resort to quality. “The documentary we saw needs a little more work on the script, but the archival footage is so powerful that it manages to capture the reality,” he says. …

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