Academic journal article Global Media Journal

The Right to Communicate in Brazil: Historical Development and Current Challenges

Academic journal article Global Media Journal

The Right to Communicate in Brazil: Historical Development and Current Challenges

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the challenges faced in Brazil for the development and consolidation of the right to communicate. For this purpose, it critically examines the existing legal and constitutional framework and brings concrete issues into the debate, by analyzing the historical aspects of media development in Brazil and exploring the way political practices have shaped the right to communicate in this country. The paper focuses on one of the main aspects of the right to communicate, namely civil society access to traditional mass media in Brazil.

Keywords: Brazil; Brazilian Federal Constitution; Civil Society; Mass Media; Right to Communicate.

Introduction

Brazil is one of South America's most influential countries and one of the world's largest democracies. It is also South America's largest media market, with thousands of commercial radio and TV broadcasting channels and a strong press. However, with a recent history of dictatorship and a relatively short democratic experience, Brazil is still struggling with various issues related to the right to communication, such as high media concentration, a small number of sources controlling the flow of information, an important digital divide, and basic difficulties in making mass media vehicles function as effective channels through which citizens can seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

This paper aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the challenges faced in Brazil for the development and consolidation of the right to communicate. For this purpose, it critically examines the existing legal and constitutional framework and brings concrete issues into the debate, by analyzing the historical aspects of media development in Brazil and exploring the way political practices have shaped the right to communicate in this country.

Although the right to communicate is an extremely broad concept involving issues as diverse as copyright, cultural rights, telecommunications and Internet policy, this paper will focus on one of the main aspects of the right to communicate, namely civil society access to traditional mass media in Brazil.

This methodological choice is justified by the important relations between mass media and democracy. In fact, the role of media is not (or should not be) limited to providing entertainment. Conventional theories about media place emphasis on the capacity of media institutions to "play a role in the democratization of societies, in creating a public sphere through which people could be empowered to take part in civic affairs, in enhancing national and cultural identity, in promoting creative expression and dialogue" (Raboy, 2003). Thus, traditionally it is argued that media is important in order to (i) provide a forum for discussion of conflicting ideas; (ii) provide citizens with information they need to perform the duties of citizenship adequately; (iii) give voice to public opinion; (iv) allow public expression of minority views; and (v) act as a watchdog of the government (Graber, 1986).

It is questionable, however, whether media organizations, as private enterprises in a capitalist society, actually perform the functions assigned to them by democratic theory. Despite the fact that human rights regarding communication, such as access to information, access to communication media and pluralistic representation of diverse points of view, are considered prior conditions for a full exercise of citizenship (Golding & Murdock, 1989), issues such as increasing media concentration, its excessively commercial nature and absence of civil society participation negatively impact the conformation of mass media as pluralistic and democratic spaces of free communication and information.

Considering that the right to communicate presupposes not only an individual freedom of expression but also a collective right that includes the right to send, receive, and impart any kind of information, ideas, and thoughts using any type of media without any barriers (Dakroury, 2005), this article examines to what extent this right is encompassed by Brazilian legislation - as far as both individual human rights and mass media regulations are concerned - and how historical, political, social and economic factors have molded public policy interventions with respect to media in this country. …

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