Latin American Media & The State: Beyond The Old Symbiosis

Andrew Paxman, Profesor Investigador Titular de la División de Historia del CIDE, coordinó el volumen 30 no. 2 de la revista Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina titulado Latin American Media & The State: Beyond The Old Symbiosis

 

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Observers of Latin America have long regarded the pervasive relationship between the region’s governments and its privately owned media, especially its TV-based conglomerates and its often oficialista newspapers, as one of accommodation or interdependence. For much of the twentieth century, hegemonic governments, whether military dictatorships or the lengthy dictablanda perpetrated by Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), prolonged their rule in part by relying on compliant media to collectively act as a ministry of propaganda; in turn, TV hegemons such as Brazil’s Grupo Globo, Mexico’s Televisa, and El Salvador’s Eserski family were permitted to maintain their quasi-monopolistic status, while newspapers retained generous state subsidies, which in most cases they needed for their survival.

 

Introduction

Observers of Latin America have long regarded the pervasive relationship between the region’s governments and its privately owned media, especially its TV-based conglomerates and its often
oficialista newspapers, as one of accommodation or interdependence1. For much of the twentieth century, hegemonic governments, whether military dictatorships or the lengthy dictablanda
perpetrated by Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), prolonged their rule in part by relying on compliant media to collectively act as a ministry of propaganda; in turn, TV hegemons such as Brazil’s Grupo Globo, Mexico’s Televisa, and El Salvador’s Eserski family were permitted to maintain their quasi-monopolistic status, while newspapers retained generous state subsidies, which in most cases they needed for their survival.
During the last two decades of the century, as first Argentina, then Brazil, Chile, several Central American states, and Mexico embraced electoral democracy, the symbiosis largely persisted, in what Manuel Alejandro Guerrero and Mireya Márquez Ramírez have termed a “captured-liberal” model2. Rather than punishing major broadcasters and newspapers for past sins of monopolistic practice or bias against political opposition, democratically elected governments saw greater utility in preserving a friendly mass media. This was particularly true of television, which itself saw the usefulness of a friendly state, especially—astended to predominate from the mid-1980s—a neoliberal one; such regimes would permit Globo and Televisa to expand into satellite TV and even telephone services. Multimedia groups such as Argentina’s Clarín and multi-industry groups such as Venezuela’s Cisneros and Colombia’s Ardila Lülle and Santo Domingo similarly expanded their media assets in the 1990s.

 

 


1  Venicio de Lima, “The State, Television, and Political Power in Brazil”, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 5 (1988), pp. 108-128; Jon Vanden Heuvel and Everette E. Dennis, Changing Patterns: Latin America’s Vital Media (New York: Freedom Forum Media Studies Center, 1995), p. 14; Elizabeth Fox, Latin American Broadcasting: From Tango to Telenovela (Luton: Univ. of Luton Press, 1997), pp. 34, 37, 58f; Silvio Waisbord, Watchdog Journalism in South America: News, Accountability, and Democracy (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2000), pp. 14-17; Claudia Fernández & Andrew Paxman, El Tigre: Emilio Azcárraga y su imperio Televisa (Mexico City: Grijalbo, 2013 [2000]), esp. pp. 22f, 49f.

2 Guerrero & Márquez-Ramírez (eds.), Media Systems and Communication Policies in Latin America (London; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp. 9-13; cf. Guerrero & Márquez-Ramírez, “The Captured-Liberal Model: Media Systems, Journalism and Communication in Latin America,” International Journal of Hispanic Media, 7 (Aug. 2014). “Captured-liberal” refers to a system that is ostensibly free-market but in which media policy is largely determined by media owners who in turn provide continued support to the state.

 

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