Monday, November 21, 2005

Brazil's First Black TV Station + "I Can't Get Out"

Today Reggie H. forwarded me this Guardian UK article about Brazil's new Black TV channel, "TV da Gente," which translates as "The People's TV" or "Our TV," the "people" being Brazil's Black (and mixed) population of about 90 million, the largest outside Africa. 35-year-old former samba star and TV personality Jose de Paula Neto, also known as Netinho de Paula (pictured at left), is the visionary behind the channel, which he hopes will play a key role in advancing the social and economic conditions of Brazil's Black population, as well as overturning longstanding stereotypical representations of Black people. As the article notes, Brazil's Blacks continue to lag far behind Whites in terms of most social indicators, and in terms of basic access to resources and capital. (Brazzil magazine pointed out in its newsfeeds yesterday that according to a UN report 43% of the Black population in Brazil was living in poverty, while 20% of the White population was.)

In addition, popular, public representations of Blacks in Brazil still fail to capture the breadth and diversity of the Black experience. While there have been Blacks on popular TV shows like Big Brother Brazil (and this year's winner was an openly gay Bahian of African descent, writer Jean Wyllys) and some targeted shows like Cidade dos Homens [City of Men] (a TV program set in the favelas, on the model of the award-winning, internationally acclaimed film Cidade de Deus [City of God]) in the extremely popular telenovelas, which now have a global reach and were profiled admiringly in The New York Times several weeks ago in articles by Mireya Navarro and others, roles for Black actors mainly consist of domestics and servants. A rare exception was the historical drama Xica da Silva. The overall impact of the telenovelas has in part been to further the longstanding social project in Brazil of "whitening" (or embranqueamento), another form of White supremacy.

The station will initially broadcast in the nation's largest city and industrial capital, São Paulo, as well as in the northeastern city of Fortaleza. Residents of Brazil's other cities with large or majority Black populations, including Rio de Janeiro, Salvador da Bahia, Belo Horizonte, Recife, and São Luis, will be able to view the show by satellite initially, while residents of Angola, which provided some of the seed investments, will be able to tuen into its programs, which will include news, sport and, according to the Guardian, "a Brazilian hip-hop slot." As the article states:

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," said Netinho de Paula. "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."

While media representations alone can't solve Brazil's racial problems, TV da Gente can and should have a positive, powerful psychological and cultural effect, especially once it's broadcast outside the two areas that will receive it first. One question BET--which wasn't always so devoid of content or racial consciousness--faced was, what sort of programming is financially viable? BET chose music videos and video shows and gradually eased off almost everything else (except a news show, bad rerun movies, and some syndicated sitcoms and dramas). What will TV da Gente do? And what about capitalization in the long run? Perhaps if it can syndicate shows that are easily translatable to African audiences as well as into Spanish--and which can thus be broadcast to Black and non-Black audiences in its neighbor countries, like Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, it might be able to stay as true as possible to Netinho de Paula's vision. I sincerely hope TV da Gente can survive, and am very interested in seeing what sorts of programs they create, especially given the Angolan partnership.


Four pictures worth countless words:

(Cap tip to AmericaBlog)


Congratulations to Bernie ( who recently completed his culinary training program, received his diploma, and now can whip up scrumptious dishes at restaurants (including his own--hint, hint) across New York!


  1. After reading your post, I thought you might be interested in Favela Rising (, which is a documentary currently shortlisted for the Academy Award. The film is about a man living in Rio favelas forms the Brazilian activist hip hop band, AfroReggae, and uses music to provide other options for the youth of the favela.

    In the true spirit of a socially engaged documentary, the directors are giving any and all profits back to the community to continue their struggle. You can get more information at if you are interested.

  2. I'm definitely interested in Favela Rising, so I'll check it out! Thanks for the heads up.