the media system

Tim Mara, The Stage and Television Today, 1975


The media system fails to realize one of the fundamental rights of members of a modern society, which is the right to information.

One possibility to be verified in the Brazilian context is that we are under the aegis of an antinomy that is becoming more radical. Something of this nature takes us to a risk of social rupture with the degradation of the mutual recognition of the members of society, as a consequence, of the common recognition of institutions.

It doesn't even take much "methodological caution" to note that the main and most active part of the antinomy, which is the extreme right, no longer recognizes (and acts against) the leadership of the judiciary system, which in a democratic state of law would be the last instance to resolve social conflicts, having their decisions legitimized by the social group. It is also evident the existence, in the formatting of this social antinomy, of parallel communication systems, building visions of realities that do not talk to each other, since they have their own facts and truths. How, in this context, to build a public space for common discussion, worthy of the name?

This is one of several million dollar questions that can be invoked in the current Brazilian situation. Some reflections precede this question. Due to liberal traditions, the conventional media system (radio, television and written press) is itself this public space for discussion. Considering the complexity of contemporary societies, this identification must be questioned, since several issues could be listed that pose insurmountable problems in the eventual representativeness that this system would have, in order to be, in ideal terms, the public space for discussion. This does not mean that the media system is not a constitutive element of this space.

However, the media system has prevailed in Brazil (for the extreme right it no longer reigns and hence one of the aspects of the antinomy) as if it were the absolute incarnation of this public space. This undue identification can be explained with a statement: the media system, through freedom of the press (freedom of private initiative to act in this field, free expression of opinion, etc.), is unable to fulfill one of the fundamental rights of members of a society which is the right to information. And, not because of deviations from journalistic ethics, as is often thought, but because it is not enough for this mission.

We are not here exempting the actions of this system from having committed several violations of the ethics that would regulate it. They were serious and not only demoralized once and for all any illusion that the system sees itself as the totality of the public space for discussion, but even its role as a member, which we deem necessary in this unavoidable sphere of a modern society, is compromised.

The fact that there is a new media system designed on digital networks producing its own reality, whose basic material is fake news and excessively “creative” opinions, will not sweeten the conventional media system nor rid it of the responsibility of having started the disjunction , of having started the production of the social antinomy.

The violation of the very journalistic foundations of the conventional media system, of its deontology, has yet to be recognized. Here we are not repeating the old stigmas that can be dissolved in ideological gatherings like: “partisan media”, “at the service of the dominant classes”, “linked to great economic interests”, etc. What the traditional media system produced in the last years of political and social life in the country was a true violation of public opinion, with the right to a series of constitutional transgressions (ah, the presumption of innocence! ah, the defense of citizenship against violence of the State! ah, the right to defense! ah, the repudiation of lynching! ah, the absence of due legal process!!!). In fact, the offense of the media action was against the democratic rule of law, the consequence of which was the erosion of its legitimacy in society..[1].

A consequence of this situation is the impossibility of a self-criticism about the role that the media system had, in general. This is not even considered, not even from a psycho-emotional point of view, because the risk of recognizing that something would have happened in the way we mentioned would be devastating. Recognize that the media system in alliance with a persecutory wing of the State (which did not keep to the constitutional rails, as was clear at the time) produced a public lynching of a political leader and his party, resulting in an unjust arrest and unparalleled madness in the political life of Brazil, frankly, it cannot be done.

How to continue acting, disputing market, companies and journalists, with some confirmation of this inexcusable deviation? The horror of the deed demands that it be forgotten and the path to self-criticism does not exist, as it is suicidal. The same applies to all social actors who “embarked” in the narrative. Being an accomplice is serious, so is being deceived.

Therefore, without illusions, because the conventional media system's way of recovering itself in the present does not go through a revision of its postures, on the contrary: as there can be no mistakes, the path is to reiterate its methods of an undisguised and strategic action mobilize as an instrument of production and interpretation of social realities the same repertoire of cognitive representations, a frozen repertoire insensitive to these same realities.

Who could in good conscience endorse that at this point in the Brazilian crisis (which is social, political, economic, with each of these dimensions reverberating and suffocating the others) the most important discussion on the eve of a new government was fiscal balance? Incidentally, it is not the financial market that imposes this discussion, as the media system could keep these reactions in place, just as it keeps a series of important manifestations from different social segments in limbo.

The choice to give so much repercussion to this is a cognitive aberration, in fact, this is neither responsible nor adult. There is nothing, in a society in the midst of such a complex crisis, that has this gift of condensing and guiding all our concerns. The media system acting in this way will sink into an irrelevance that will harm all of us. However, it can be seen from the current sample that self-regulation of this system cannot be expected to divert it from this disastrous path. This path will not lead to the restitution of a common space for discussion and, more ambitiously, it will not contribute to the formation of a true public space for discussion, something fundamental to combat the radicalization of the social antinomy that is being structured in the country.

So what to do to create a public space for discussion if one of your fundamental entities is a prisoner of an inertial shield that produces the nonsense of self-regulation without self-criticism. A media system of a different quality is needed, especially in its most important aspect, which is the strength it still has to radiate its guidelines to a large part of the population.

One side of the “Brazilian antinomy” is discussing the “expenses cap” and the fiscal balance, as well as the role of the “first lady” due to this radiated agenda, the product of a thematic sameness that has been repeated automatically for years, without any some way for more fundamental and pertinent guidelines to our reality (economic, including) to come to light of day. And it is at this point that we have to achieve a change, which begins to found a true public space for discussion. If the space for discussion must be public, it makes no sense that only one constituent element of that space (the conventional media system) owns the agenda. How to dethrone the monopoly of the media system agenda? Via digital networks?

It is here that a heteroregulation of the private communication system should create forms. As? It is not so difficult to think of these ways of allowing the public, via its representatives, to also indicate its guidelines of interest as an object in the discussion space. It is even more difficult to convince that this issue what is it about is one of the nodes of the problem. After all, false realities and parallel communication systems (from parallel worlds) are not just products of fake news, but they are also results of the way and of what is chosen in realities as objects of interest.

*Jaime Tadeu Oliva is a geographer and professor at the Institute of Brazilian Studies at USP (IEB-USP).

Originally published on the website Brasildebate.


[1] See SALTY; OLIVE in


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