In the waning days of the 1994 presidential campaign, Brazil's leftist challenger took to wearing a beanie topped by a little model satellite dish. Candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wasn't vying for the comedy vote. He wanted to dramatize what he considered collusion between the government and the country's dominant television network, Rede Globo, to boost the fortunes of his opponent.
A month before Election Day, Brazilians with satellite dishes captured the off-air studio feed of a pre-interview conversation between Finance Minister Rubens Ricupero and a Globo reporter. The two were caught discussing strategies to insure favorable coverage of the Real Plan, an anti-inflation scheme launched by Fernando Henrique Cardoso (now President) as finance minister before he resigned to enter the electoral fray. Globo issued a firm denial of journalistic malfeasance; Ricupero took the hit and stepped down.
The lore of recent Brazilian political history is full of similar tales. For decades, TV Globo (as it's known) has had a near-monopoly on TV viewership and a symbiotic relationship with successive military and civilian governments. Its political and cultural sway in Brazil is unrivaled. "Globo has a very pervasive influence on diverse aspects of Brazilian society," comments Raul Reis, a former Brazilian journalist who teaches at the Institute for Human Communication at California State University in Monterey.
Producing Brazilian-made programming in accordance with international …