But auds eat up telenovelas on the drug trade

Colombian telenovelas may have the region’s intelligentsia and political leaders railing about their violent content, but their ratings are still stellar.

The latest to vent is Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, whose gripes about the telenovelas’ bloody storylines led his country’s parliament to consider setting up a censorship board to regulate TV content.

Martinelli singled out Colombian telenovelas in his rant to the media in late January.

“These telenovelas are inflicting great damage to the moral fiber of our country,” he declared in reference to Colombian titles “El Capo,” “El Cartel,” “Las Munecas de la Mafia” (Mafia Dolls) and “Sin tetas no hay paraiso” (Without Breasts There Is No Paradise). Latter is about young women who have breast implants to better attract wealthy drug runners.

In a meeting with media owners in late January, Martinelli warned that he would urge congress to pass a law if they did not self-regulate programming, while still insisting that he would respect freedom of expression.

So far, all the webs have complied in pushing back their telenovelas to later hours. Some broadcasters have seen the ratings of their Colombian soaps drop as a result. Panamanian web Medcom, saw ratings dip to 7.7 from nearly 11 when it moved Fox Telecolombia production “El Capo” to 9 from its original 8 p.m. slot.

“We’re confident that its ratings will eventually pick up,” says Lorena Sanchez, programming and acquisitions chief of Medcom.

Rival TVN preempted government orders by airing “Las Munecas de la Mafia” at 9 p.m. It had already been reprimanded for unspooling “Sin tetas” at 8 p.m.

Even in Colombia, there is a backlash among the intelligentsia against these telenovelas but ratings continue to rise.

“El Capo” lead actress Marcela Mar supports the move to push the telenovelas into latenight slots.

“Unfortunately, the legacy of (drug lord) Pablo Escobar is reflected in different aspects of our society, including in such series as ‘El Capo’ or ‘Las Munecas de la Mafia,’ ” Mar says. “The drug-trafficking theme will continue to be explored until it loses its audience.”

Judging by the stellar ratings of the latest such skein from Colombian web RCN, “Rosario Tijeras,” it doesn’t look like its appeal has waned one iota.

The 60-episode skein produced by Teleset, 50% owned by Sony Pictures TV, debuted on Feb. 8 with a 15.9 rating and 39.6 share, slightly upstaging “Las Munecas de la Mafia” on rival Caracol, which reported a 15.4 rating and 38.7 share.

Based on the bestseller by Jorge Franco, “Rosario Tijeras” tracks a young woman who becomes a hired assassin out to seek revenge on those who abused her. A film adaptation in 2005 is among the all-time top grossing local pics in Colombia.

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