Broadcasters Ask Brazilian Government To Protect Them From Interesting Foreign Content On The Web

from the good-luck-with-that dept

Last week Techdirt wrote about a draft of a civil rights-based framework for the Internet that is being considered by lawmakers in Brazil. It seems like the Brazilian Radio and Television Association didn’t get around to reading it, because they want the government there to “regulate” foreign web content flowing into the country (Brazilian news report):

The Assembly of the International Broadcasting Association today approved a resolution tabled by the Brazilian Radio and Television Association (BRTA) asking the Brazilian authorities to regulate the production and distribution of media content entering the country via the Net.

The BRTA accuses foreign groups of producing journalistic content and entertainment, violating Article 222 of the Federal Constitution, which limits foreign ownership of media companies and broadcasters to 30%.

According to the resolution the failure of the regulatory framework represents a “grave violation of Brazilian sovereignty.”

There are a few issues here.

First, the flow of material from outside the country doesn’t really have anything to do with ownership of media companies: it might come from a TV company’s web site in Portugal, say, but is just as likely to be on YouTube, or on some random web server in someone’s bedroom. Trying to regulate it using media ownership laws is about as sensible as, well, trying to tell people what videos they can watch on the Internet.

Moreover, framing this in terms of “violations of Brazilian sovereignty” is just silly: it’s seeking to turn a simple fact about the global nature of the Internet into an affront to national pride in an attempt to gain some political advantage. It’s nothing of the kind, it’s just the reality of the online media world today; the sooner the BRTA gets used to that, the easier it will be for its members to thrive there.

The real issue here is why Brazilians have started watching so much foreign content on the web: could it be that they find home-grown stuff rather dull in comparison? Rather than calling for government intervention, perhaps the Brazilian television and radio companies should spend more time seeking artistic inspiration.

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Comments on “Broadcasters Ask Brazilian Government To Protect Them From Interesting Foreign Content On The Web”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Nothing new here

Many local media owners in countries around the world try their best to get the governments to pass anti-foreign media laws. The cite the need to protect local “artists” and a “degradation” of culture and moral values from Hollywood media as a reason for these laws. The real reason, like always however is money and the lucrative ‘exclusivity’ of being the only game in town. Monopoly is a sweet game indeed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Some pointers:

– Brazil is seeing a boom in online viewing, there is no cable in Brazil(cable only reaches single digits in Latin America). Blockbuster just launched their Netflix service like in Latin America trying to capitalize on that, maybe that is why Brazilian networks are so upset, because some services are bypassing the old gatekeepers, note that Blockbusters is not the first one to do so there are others.

– The scene in Brazil is one of the strongests in the world, like the French and Greek, just go to any subtitle website that offers statistics of subs created and you see that, Brazil, Spain, Greece, France and English are the dominant languages people translate too, there is a strong correlation there. This is a country that has the most sophisticated criminal banking online in the world, yes true criminals that are trying to steal money from your account, the point being, there is a very capable class of people in that country that understands and can deliver on the tech front, they are not Nigerian scamer’s, but people enabling others to use more online content, the cable in Latin America is the Internet.

– Brazil is dominated basically by 2 TV networks that own practically every piece of media in that territory and influence their neighbours.

– Brazil has a very, very weak content production capability mostly all programs are derivative from European and American. For some reason Latin America doesn’t produce content of their own, they are even behind Africa in that department.

Anonymous Coward says:

Blockbuster launching Brazilian Netflix like service after going after Netflix.

Netflix oppening in Latin America

Brazil is an attractive market it was 8th place in GDP size just a few years ago and climbed its way to 7th and continues to grow, the thing is, online content exploded over there, they are ripping everything and other companies saw the opportunity where Brazilian companies didn’t.

Alan (profile) says:

A view from a Brit who’s lived happily in Brazil for 16 years (caveat: my opinion is based on one person’s observations not research or hard evidence).

A. I don’t believe the proposers of the bill are worried about a threat to local media production.

1. Brazil has an extremely strong domestic media industry. There’s a vibrant music scene, producing both international and local styles of music. The TV and film industry is technically and artistically strong with well paid professionals.

2. Although Brazilians adore foreign films and TV, they are proud and happy to watch locally produced material.

3. Actors and TV presenters in Brazil can become very wealthy; there are at least 2 dollar-billionaire TV personalities. Lesser known artists make a good living from their profession.

National sovereignty

This is just a tick-the-box oratorical statement. The “threat to national sovereignty” card is often played. It’s as frequent and as meaningless as the “threat to our way of life” card is in the US or the “threat to our children” card in the UK.

I believe the issue is that the “importers” of foreign media don’t wish to lose a very lucrative cash-cow.

Foreign movies/TV are seen as luxury products for high earning professionals such as doctors or lawyers. And as such, the re-sellers expect a massive profit margin. This also applies to books, toys, games and educational products. (Although the free TV channels do have the most popular first-run US series as part of their program line-up.)

To expand on this point. A trip to the cinema for a family of 3 costs a lower middle-class at least half of its’ monthly entertainment allowance and is out of reach for most working class families. The same applies to a recently released DVD (even though the DVDs are physically made in Brazil). The same applies for a basic package cable subscription (which have US TV series and re-runs).

Until recently, people could get hold of the films and series from the black market stalls for almost nothing. But this has ended now.

B. To reinforce their market position, local resellers get exclusive distribution rights. Indeed, most films and series cannot be legally streamed into Brazil; Hulu, Amazon, the BBC etc. block much of their content from Brazilian ISPs.

If the resellers priced the media to be within the easy reach of the lower middle-class or the working class, they would have to sell a substantially higher volume ant a much lower profit margin.

For some reason, selling this sort of product in small quantites at large margins is better business than selling large quantities at low margins.

So, in my view, the bill isn’t to protect Brazilian content providers but to preserve the profit margins of the content importers.

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