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Black TV Channel Ignites Ire in Brazil
Some accuse the 'Our Channel' initiative of racism
Ana Maria Brambilla (brambilla)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2006-01-16 14:15 (KST)   
A Brazilian TV channel dedicated especially to black people has been provoking controversy. Not only Brazil, but parts of Europe, the western U.S., Asia and Angola have been watching "Canal da Gente," or "Our Channel," since Nov. 20, 2005.

The owner of this enterprise costing 12 million Brazilian Reals (U.S.$5.2 million) is the Brazilian singer Netinho de Paula, well-known for singing "pagode," a kind of music similar to samba that is very popular in Brazil.

The focus of the controversy is the accusation that the channel is racist. All the programming is aimed toward black people; the presenters are black and 50 percent of the company's staff are composed of black people.

"I think it's legitimate that a channel specialize in sports, politics, sex, religion and any another type of segmentation. I don't agree with a channel segmented for race, color, or religion. Therefore, this means racial discrimination for me," argues Flavio Porcello, a journalist with a long experience in Brazilian TV and television education, in an interview with OhmyNews.

Surfing on the Internet, it is possible to find many forums and blogs talking about the controversy of "TV da Gente."

Created as a space for black people to identify with and, according to its owner, to promote racial diversity in Brazilian television, this channel began with a violent incident. On the day of its inauguration, when Brazil was celebrating the "National Day of Black Conscience," a comic reporter called Rodrigo Scarpa -- nicknamed "Vesgo," who works on a program called "Panico na TV" -- asked de Paula, "So, Netinho, does this mean you will open your channel to everybody?" The question, full of meaning, annoyed the singer and he physically attacked the reporter.

He then said: "This is a black party!" and expelled the reporter. During the party's speech, de Paula admitted that he beat up the reporter and said if necessary, he would do the same again.

Netinho de Paula attacking a TV reporter
©2005 Hermann
Thiago Jerke, a Brazilian from Petropolis city in the state of Rio de Janeiro, said in his blog that all these facts raise two very important questions: what can be considered racism? And what's the role and importance of a famous person to society?

"Mr. Netinho could have been honest from the first moment and said 'I'm sorry, but I wouldn't like to give an interview today' or 'I'm sorry, but I think this is not a good moment to joke.'"

This resonated loudly for white Brazilian people, and they feel excluded from the initiative. Some years ago, the Brazilian editorial market released a magazine especially devoted to black people. Its name was "Raça," or "Race."

Raça Magazine's target audience is black people.
©2006 A. Brambilla
It shows only black models and talks about black issues in its articles. Of course, initiatives like these can meet the demand of more than 10 million black people that live in Brazil. But when it's done blatantly, it can mean racism because other races such as Asians, Aboriginals and Europeans are excluded.

For Jerke, the "National Day of Black Conscience" didn't exist, only the "Day of racial equality." In a long comment about this case, he asks: "If there is a channel only for white people, it would be racism! A magazine only for the black race is a victory. A magazine only for whites is racism."

Porcello completed his analysis: "If people are equal, independent of color, why does a TV channel show only people of one color? The initiative is dangerous; therefore, it can stimulate racial preconceptions."

Since the first day of programming, "TV da Gente" has been transmitting six hours of content including children's shows, soccer, news, and music. The channel transmits by satellite throughout Brazil and to other countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, such as Angola. Some Angolan businessmen helped by investing money to create the idea. Other entrepreneurs are interested in restricting the signal of "TV da Gente" to only subscribers.
Ana Maria Brambilla is Brazilian journalist, citizen reporter and open source journalism researcher.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ana Maria Brambilla

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