The crisis and the media

Brasil Observer - Apr 22 2016

(Leia em Português)


The objective situation of the economy and the PT project enabled a breakthrough of conservative sectors, the media leading


By Dennis de Oliveira

The environment Brazil is currently facing is product of the end of a class conciliation model that was carried out by the PT (Workers Party) government since 2003. This model presupposes social inclusion based on economic development, secured with a major role of the State, and from this inclusion to constitute a consumer internal mass market that would leverage sovereign and autonomous economic growth.

During Lula’s administration (2003/2010), this model had two favourable factors: the exhaustion of the neoliberal model imposed by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in the years 1994-2002, which lost its sustainability with the shortage of international capital; and a favourable scenario for the opening of new international markets, particularly for Brazilian commodities.

Thus, taking advantage of this favourable situation, the Lula government, in its first phase, has chosen to control the moods of the market by applying a contractionary economic policy (high interest rates, fiscal surpluses, among others) and, at the same time unveiling new frontiers for expansion of international markets. The former president travelled to the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, played a proactive role in international geopolitics and, therefore, opened new fields for investment by Brazilian companies and also transnationals installed in the country. With this, he managed to accumulate foreign currency necessary to sustain social inclusion programs, as well as real increases in the minimum wage, expansion of public universities, among others.

This contributed to the formation of a new working class in the country. Integrated by consumption, these new workers give basis to what the Brazilian political scientist André Singer calls “Lulism”, distinct from classic social sectors that make up PT’s support base (workers of the most dynamic sectors of the economy and with trade union tradition). The integration of these workers to society by means of access to consumption at the same time extended the PT’s support base and also generated weaknesses and instabilities in it, since their commitment is directly linked to the maintenance and/or expansion of consumption power.

Given this, the Dilma Rousseff government that started in 2011 had as its central task to expand and sustain the development of the economy. The new president had and openly voluntarist stance and, along with the Minister of Finance, Guido Mantega, sponsored a series of conflicts with powerful sectors of Brazilian capitalism. The new PT government expanded the credit and reduced interest rates, opened international markets for Brazilian contractors, gave incentives through public financing lines and tax reductions to certain sectors of industry (in particular the construction and automotive). All of these actions conflicted with the speculative capital, with industrial sectors that were not included in the benefits, with powerful service companies privatized in the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (particularly of electricity). Dilma also opted to finance the merger of large domestic companies with the objective to boost competition in the international market.



A large part of the communications industry supported enthusiastically the neoliberal project of Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Both for ideological and commercial reasons, as several of these media companies participated directly or indirectly in the privatizations. That’s the case of Rede Globo (the biggest TV network in Brazil), which participated in consortia that disputed the purchase of state-owned companies in Rio de Janeiro, and the company S/A O Estado de S. Paulo, which publishes the traditional “Estadão” newspaper, which was a partner of BCP company acquired later by the operator Claro. Editora Abril, in financial crisis, opted in recent years to be a company that produces educational material, acquiring publishers that monopolized the production of school books. The changes in the educational system and in particular the purchase of school books policy by the government reached the company. The federal government decided to decentralize the purchase, making possible the participation of small publishers and prohibited publishers do direct marketing in teacher halls of schools. This is why the columnists of Veja magazine, from Editora Abril, began to campaign against the “politicization of education”, the “school ideologization”, among others.

Another area of ​​economic pressure stems from the main advertisers of mainstream media: banks. Policies that displease the financial market are often bombarded by columnists who have space in these media. Almost all of these columnists and economic analysts have direct or indirect links with financial capital.

Besides the economic aspects, the ideological alignment of the Brazilian mainstream media is historically against national capitalism projects. For a quite long time now a conservative think tank called Instituto Millenium has operated in Brazil, which has the participation of several leaders of the media industry as well as columnists.

The global economic crisis hit Brazil and the PT government found it difficult to maintain its growth project. With this, the volatile base support built in recent years breaks, since it only remains to the extent that its consumption situation remains. The traditional base of the PT also weakens the extent that certain actions taken by the government contradict historical flags of these sectors such as, for example, support to agribusiness at the expense of agrarian reform and family farming. And finally, the scope for opening new frontiers for the national capital expansion also reduces with the international crisis. And commodity prices fall.

This objective situation of the economy and the PT project enabled a breakthrough of conservative sectors, the media leading, which uses selectively and opportunistically the anticorruption discourse to gain support and advocate the overthrow of the elected president in 2014.

Why selective? Because corruption allegations hit both the situation of the opposition, but it is clear that the space given by media to allegations of corruption against pro-government politicians is much higher. Allegations of corruption, even more serious, against opposition politicians are sometimes not reported.

Why opportunistic? Because behind this crisis the real purpose of the impeachment is hidden. It’s not to “moralise” the country, but to apply a political-economic project that is centred in interests of speculative capital, barring the social inclusion policies and imposing recessionary measures, as it was prescribed for countries in crisis (like Greece). Being unpopular, the opposition discourse reverberated by the media is that the problems the country faces is because “politicians steal the money the worker pays in taxes.” However, it is not proposed to make a tax reform that does away with the regressive nature of the tax in Brazil (which charges more to those who get up to three minimum wages), political reform banning private financing of campaigns (one of the main sources of corruption) and, much less, a reform of the communication system that ends monopolies that imposes a unique voice in civil society.


  • Dennis de Oliveira is an associate professor at the University of São Paulo, coordinator of the Centre of Latin American Studies on Culture and Communication and member of the Latin American network QUILOMBAÇÃO