TV Ratings Reform in Brazil

Timelines: All, Brazil Categories: 2000s, Brazil, Classification event, Country, Decade, Event TV Ratings Reform in Brazil
Date: 2006


PraesentIn 2006 the Department of Justice, Classification, Degrees and Qualifications (DEJUS), along with the NGO ANDI (Agencia de Noticias does Direitos da Infancia [Brazilian News Agency for Children’s Rights]), Save the Children Sweden, and the Avina Foundation, published the book TV Rating System: Building citizenship on the small screen. The book sought to outline the research basis for the indicative classification system for television, which was significantly reformed in the same year, under Ministry of Justice ordinance no. 1100 of 2006 and later under no. 1220 of 2007. MJ 1220/2007 outlined the system of co-regulation for television, in which broadcasters would self-classify programs under monitoring by DEJUS. Then-Minister of Justice, Marcio Thomaz Bastos, described the co-published book as “the outcome of a wide range of discussions held over the past four years by the Ministry of Justice, through its National Secretariat of Justice, with State agencies, media firms, and nongovernmental organizations” (ANDI 2012, 4). Bastos stated that this major reform process began in 2002 with the former Minister of Justice, Jose Gregore, who sought to connect the TV rating system to the exercise of human rights (5). His comments emphasised both the public consultation process and the book as providing legitimating evidence for the proposed system in line with the rule of law and in contrast with former Brazilian censorship practices: “It can therefore be stated categorically that the new TV Rating System does not institute self-regulation – much less censorship – by subterfuge” (4). For the Minister, “This work narrates part of the story of Brazil’s redemocratization” (5).

The book outlined key features of policy-making for TV classification, including its relationship to freedom of expression and childhood and adolescent development, and described the approaches of numerous other national jurisdictions. The introduction offers a set of principles that underpin the proposed system which, as compared with elsewhere, situate media classification within a robust discourse of human rights (ANDI 2006, 7). The book was available in draft form for download and comment from April to December 2006, and its premises were debated at numerous public events across 2006 (8). Developing the proposed system began in December 2005 and involved exploratory research on systems in other countries, interviews and focus groups with officials, interviews with youth and media experts, literature reviews, legislative and policy review, and discussion with Ministry of Justice staff and pre-testing (176-177).

DEJUS, ANDI, and their co-publishers specified the limitations of the current system for TV ratings in detail, including the lack of a defined standard for designating ratings, the subjective application of ratings categories by analysts, and ratings categories limited to age designations rather than also including content descriptions (ANDI 2006, 28; see also 172; 178). Important to the Brazilian Supreme Court case of the following decade, the book also described the absence of government sanctioning powers in relation to TV broadcasters failing to recognise age-based time restrictions across Brazil’s multiple time zones:
“The ministry did not have sanctioning powers to require that broadcasters air their content at the recommended times. As a rule, broadcasters have complied with the ratings advisories, but there have been problems. An example of this has been the failure of broadcasters, on occasion, to observe the different time zones in Brazil – in other words, the possibility always existed in states located in different time zones than Brasilia that a particular program might be aired in a time-slot outside of the designated broadcasting time.” (28-31)
Requirements to limit the exhibition of programs to certain times according to their age rating were outlined in MJ 796/2000 and, while these were mostly accepted, “television broadcasters in states located outside Brasilia standard time went to court to avert potential sanctions for noncompliance with the time zone provision” (33). The authors argued that the Constitution “rejected any differentiation among Brazilian citizens according to their region of origin” but that where time zone distinctions are not observed “the rights of the children of Acre . . . are not ensured to the same extent as those of children in the state of Sao Paulo” (163).

The authors considered in detail the systems of other countries in developing a proposal for Brazil, describing the systems of Canada, USA, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Catalonia, Portugal, Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, and New Zealand. Such comparative analysis is framed positively for institutional reform – “The array of models put in place in various corners of the globe places Brazil in an advantageous position, enabling the country to build a national system based on the best available practices” (ANDI 2006, 115). This basis means that Brazil’s TV ratings systems is one of the most thoroughly researched and “scientific” ratings systems considered within this larger study, despite the failure of broadcasters to always follow its requirements. Through such comparisons the authors proposed a co-regulatory model, in which the state would monitor ratings granted by TV broadcasters, governed by a legislative framework that outlined age and content categories, associated time restrictions, and penalties for failing to comply with these (116). Particular attention was given to Germany, for its “similar federative character” (144), in which state-based oversight authorities monitored an industry self-regulation system in relation to a Youth Protection Act. The Chilean system was also considered at length for its specification of “adequacies”, or positive content that might be favourably recognised by ratings systems, such as educational content that develops cognitive and emotional skills and provides knowledge or information (167; 178; 225-226).

The system outlined in the book sought to increase the objectivity of the ratings process, establish content- as well as age-based ratings categories, and develop dialogue with society about indicative classification (ANDI 2006, 35). It also “vigorously” advocated for the inclusion of “adequacies” in ratings determinations, or recognition of content that would contribute to favourable ratings for TV programs, recommending them for young audiences (161). This principle is integrated into contemporary Brazilian ratings practices through the identification of aggravating and mitigating elements. DEJUS, ANDI and their co-authors argued that “The new system confers greater transparency to the ratings advisory process. First, by enabling interested viewers to critically assess the ratings and, second, by extending the system beyond mere age-based designations” (174). – Liam Grealy

Further reading:
– ANDI. (2006). TV rating system: building citizenship on the small screen. Brasilia: ANDI and the Department of Justice, Classification, Titles and Qualifications.

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