RIO DE JANEIRO — During Brazil’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985 every publication and broadcaster had an undesirable “guest,” the censor, who vetoed any content that criticized the regime.
Censorship has been abolished, but a recent decision of the Ministry of Justice to set up age classifications for shows has local media groups warning that the government again wants to restrict freedom of expression.
Local papers and TV newscasts are heavily criticizing the ministry’s decision, which states that shows suitable for all ages must air before 8 p.m. Shows for ages 12+ must air 8 to 9 p.m.; 14+ 9-10 p.m.; 16+ 10-11 p.m.; 18+ after 11 p.m.
The ministry postponed the introduction of the rules after the Brazilian Assn. of Radio and Television Cos. (Abert) got a court injunction partially suspending them. The ministry is holding public meetings on the subject.
“The (broadcast) sector understands the necessity of the TV classification, which is a constitution obligation of the government,” Abert prexy Daniel Pimentel Slaviero tells Variety. “But we fear it will be a mandatory classification, which will restrict freedom of expression and creation.”The rules are an evolution of a seven-year-old Ministry of Justice decision, already in place.
The TV nets themselves suggest an age classification for their shows, based on whether they contain scenes of sex, violence and drugs.
After the show is aired with the suggested classification, a ministry team may review the age classification. But the ministry does not have the power to stop the show airing or to punish the network.
“If the net does not abide by the revised age classification, all that the ministry can do is to forward the case to the Prosecutor’s Office,” says a Ministry of Justice spokeswoman.
Market analysts say the real concern of the powerful local media groups is commercial, not philosophical.
For instance, under the new rules nets must respect the country’s three time zones. In the western Acre state, for instance, the nets air at 7 p.m. shows cleared for 10 p.m. in the main Central Eastern time zone, where most Brazilians live.
Following local time for the age classification would be an extra cost broadcasters want to avoid, according to these analysts.
Slaviero, however, insists the central point is freedom of expression and not the costs of adjusting to different time zones.