In Brazil, time zones have proved to be an object of major political contestation regarding TV broadcasting practices and age-based classification. The Ministry of Justice ordinance no. 1220 of 2007 specifies the requirement that TV companies take account of Brazil’s time zones through broadcasting that conforms to the age-based limits on scheduling under indicative classification. Broadcasters must “adopt and respect the time connection with the age contained in said Ordinance. When Daylight Saving Time is in force, it must also be respected by television channels” (DEJUS 2012, 37). Ministry of Justice ordinance no. 368 of 2014 restates this obligation to conform to scheduling restrictions for open TV broadcasts according to age categories. For example, works classified as “Not recommended for ages under 12” and “Not recommended for ages under 14” should not be broadcast before 8pm and 9pm respectively. As of 2017, Brazil has four time zones. The first relates to an archipelago of mostly unpopulated islands in the Atlantic Ocean at UTC-2:00. The second time zone, “Brasília time”, comprises the states in the Northeast, Southeast, and South regions, as well as some central states (Goiás, Tocantins, Pará, and Amapá), representing about 94 per cent of Brazil’s population. “Brasília time” is UTC-03:00, shifting to UTC-02:00 when daylight saving time is observed, except in the Northeastern states that do not observe daylight saving time. Brazil’s third time zone, UTC-04:00, officially governs the Central and Western states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Rondônia, Roraima, and most of the state of Amazonas. Again, this time zone shifts to UTC-03:00 during daylight saving time, except in some Northern states. Finally, the fourth Brazilian time zone, UTC-05:00, relates to the Southwest section of Amazonas and the state of Acre, which borders Peru and Bolivia, accounts for about 0.5 per cent of Brazil’s population, and does not observe daylight saving time.
The number of time zones, their variability due to daylight saving time, and the requirement that broadcasts respect time limits associated with indicative classification has proved a problem for Brazilian TV companies, most of which are located in Rio de Janiero and Sao Paulo. For example, a program rated “Not recommended for ages under 12” and broadcast from Rio de Janiero in the Brasília time zone at 8pm would be on-screen in Acre at 6pm, and at 5pm when the Brasília time zone is observing daylight savings. Thus in order to observe the time and age limits outlined in MJ 1220/2007 and MJ 368/2014 the 12-rated program must be broadcast in the Brasília time zone at 11pm to be screened at 8pm in Acre. In practice, this led to the establishment of the “Fuso Network” (Spindle Network) on 8 April 2008, the name for Rede Globo’s differentiated broadcast signal but also used colloquially to refer to the alternative broadcast signals of multiple TV stations. The Amazon Network broadcast the Fuso signal to Acre, Amazonas, Rondônia, and Roraima, while the Matogrossense Television Network broadcast the Fuso signal to Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul. TV stations located outside of Brasilia time had until this point typically run their own programming on Monday to Friday mornings and coordinated broadcasts from midday Brasília time during the week and in general across the weekend. Differentiated situations under daylight savings time – for example, eastern Pará did not observe daylight saving, creating a one hour difference between that region and Brasília time – would require local stations to record and rebroadcast programming. Thus following ordinance MJ 1220/2007, broadcasts had to be delayed not only so that morning news programs were available at appropriate times but to accommodate time and age restrictions. One unpopular effect of this situation concerned the broadcasting of football matches. “Seven” and “eight o’clock telenovelas” were prioritised over broadcasts of live football matches, which began airing either partway through the contest or were shown in a truncated, edited form. The delayed broadcast also meant some audiences were unable to participate in reality programs that used live voting, such as Big Brother and The Voice. The Fuso networks also constituted an additional expense for television companies.
The requirements of indicative classification led to major reform of time zones themselves. In the days following the entry into force of MJ 1220/2007, Brazil’s Federal Senate approved a law (Law 11,662/2008) specifying a new division of national time zones, published in the Official Gazette on 25 April 2008 and coming into effect on 24 June 2008. Mainland time zones were reduced from three to two, with Acre and Southwest Amazonas incorporated into UTC-04:00 and the Western half of Pará included in UTC-03:00. This bill was proposed by Senator Tião Viana (PT-AC) (subsequently the governor of Acre), at the request of the television companies Rede Globo and Rede Amazônica de Televisão. The change received mixed reactions from local people, in response to interrupting daily life and synchronising business hours with Eastern Brazil. In 2009, Senator Arthus Virgílio authored a bill (PLS – Draft Law of the Senate no. 486 of 2008) for Brazil to have a single time zone, which was approved by the Senate Committee of Economic Affairs on 16 June 2009. The proposal was justified on the grounds of synchronising business and banking practices across the country, but was criticised for lacking public consultation. The proposal was withdrawn by Virgílio in July 2009, after the senator confirmed it was developed following a request from a TV network owner.
In 2009 the Federal government decided to hold a referendum in Acre regarding the new time zone, to coincide with the federal election on 31 October 2010. Voters were asked the question: “Are you in favor of the recent amendment of the legal hours promoted in your state?” The referendum results involved 56.87 per cent of Acre voters supporting a return to the former time zone. This would be reinstated through a Declaratory Act signed by Senate President Jose Sarney (PMDB-AP) (Portal Imprensa 2011). Responding to this result, the Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters (ABERT) threatened to impede the change, and appealed to the government that such a Declaratory Act was not of sufficient legal standing to overturn the 2008 decision, which would instead require a bill to pass the Brazilian Congress. ABERT’s executive director, Luis Roberto Antonik, stated: “We know that a law can only be revoked by another one of equal or superior hierarchy” (Machado 2011), in a clear attempt to slow the reform process. Under pressure, Sarney transferred his decision to the Commission of Constitution and Justice, led by Senator Sérgio Petecão (PMN / AC) as rapporteur. A CCJ meeting at which Petecão’s report was to be voted on by senators was cancelled for unclear reasons and reform was delayed (ANDI 2011). In September 2013 and following much stalling including the veto of the Senate bill by President Dilma Rousseff in 2011, the referendum results were finally approved in the Senate under Law 12,876 of 2013, and in November 2013 Brazil’s fourth time zone was reinstated at UTC-05:00. On 20 February 2017, following the Supreme Court decision to disallow penalties against broadcasters for failing to follow time zone restrictions, Rede Globo de Televisão closed the Fuso Network. Amazon Network Acre, which previously transmitted popular programs with two hours of delay in that state, has reduced this difference to one hour. – Liam Grealy
– ANDI. (2011). Under pressure, Senate sets tomorrow for the controversy of the Acre time zone. (Portuguese). https://goo.gl/retp5f
– DEJUS. (2012). Content rating guide. Department of Justice, Ratings, Titles and Qualifications, Ministry of Justice: Brasilia.
– Machado, A. (2012). Globo tries to prevent timezone chosen in referendum in Acre. GGN. (Portuguese). https://goo.gl/Mym7Gj