Brazil's black TV channel to tackle legacy of slavery
THE GUARDIAN , SAO PAOLO, BRAZIL
Tuesday, Nov 22, 2005,Page 6
"Is it on air? We're on the air!" With the push of a button and these hesitant words, Brazil's first black television channel came into existence on Sunday.
TV da Gente, which means "our TV," has been heralded as giant step forward in the country's fight against discrimination, and to mark the broadcast high-ranking politicians, celebrities and civil rights activists gathered at the Casa Verde studio in north Sao Paulo.
"This will turn out to be the most important development ever in terms of communication for black communities all around the world," a veteran American civil rights activist, 72-year-old James Meredith, said. "Unlike the United States and South Africa, Brazil established a system of white supremacy without the obvious signs like segregation or apartheid. Until Brazilians start to face up to this reality the legacy of slavery will continue."
Meredith's ideas are far from universally accepted in Brazil where, despite the social chasm between Afro-Brazilians and their white counterparts, many still insist on the idea of a "racial democracy," first expounded by anthropologist Gilberto Freyre in the 1930s.
Statistics tell a different story, of a country split along racial lines. Afro-Brazilians form almost half Brazil's 180 million strong population yet account for 63 percent of the poorest section of society.
The 2000 census found that 62.7 percent of Brazil's white population had access to sanitation compared with just 39.6 percent of its Afro-Brazilians, while a new UN report found that black men earned on average 50 percent less than their white counterparts in Brazil.
Human rights campaigners underline the racial dimension behind Brazil's staggering murder rates. The majority of victims are young black men aged between 15 and 24. The sprawling redbrick favelas that engulf large urban centers are predominantly, if not entirely, inhabited by black Brazilians.
In the nightly blockbuster soap operas -- perhaps the best indicator of how things stand in Brazilian society -- black actors are generally restricted to playing the roles of maids and porters who work in the glitzy apartment blocks inhabited by the wealthier, white characters. Indeed, while slavery was abolished more than a century ago in Brazil, many believe its legacy is harder to shake off.
TV da Gente's aims to change at least part of this. Its mission statement, mimicking the former president Juscelino Kubitschek, is to achieve "50 years progress in five." The man behind the media revolution that seeks to overturn this divide is Jose de Paula Neto, better known as Netinho de Paula, a media-savvy 35-year-old who rose from the housing estates of Sao Paulo to become a household name, first as a samba popstar then as a television presenter.
In his weekly show Dia de Princesa Netinho roams Brazil's deprived periferia (outskirts) in a limousine, bestowing gifts upon impoverished families while dressed in his trademark dinner-jacket.
Netinho says his latest project aims to redress the racial imbalance in Brazilian television and society as a whole.
"Our country is marked by racial mixtures. But the actual model of TV does not represent the majority of Brazilians. We are trying to help our own people, given that nobody else seems to want to do it. This is where the real fight starts. Those who say they want an integrated Brazil will really have to start showing their faces now," Netinho said.
Initially the new channel, in which around US$5.39 million has been invested, will be broadcast for six hours a day on terrestrial television in Sao Paulo and the north-eastern city of Fortaleza. People in other areas will be able to tune in via satellite, while viewers in Angola, from where a quarter of the investments have come, will be able to follow daily programs, which include news, sport and a Brazilian hip-hop slot.
As Brazil marked its annual black pride day yesterday, black activists at the launch of TV da Gente celebrated the new channel.
"TV da Gente will reproduce, for the first time, the true image of the people," Netinho de Paula said. "It's a huge victory for us all: for the black movement, for the white movement, for the red movement and for the Brazilian people."
If you know some portuguese or want to 'try' to know more about it here's the website about their programming. Seems they are still building the foundations. Hip hop is included as a feature of their programming along with other commentaries and specials.