Brazilian broadcaster Empresa Brasil de Comunicação (EBC) was created in 2007 as a model of accountable and independent public media. However, the broadcaster has deteriorated in recent years and transformed into a mouthpiece of the state. Now, privatisation looms.

How did it come to this?


EBC has a large remit: it is responsible for the content and management of TV Brasil, news agency Agência Brasil, Radioagência Nacional, TV Brasil Internacional, the EBC portal, and eight radio stations. EBC also runs the government’s official channel TV NBR as well as the radio programme A Voz do Brasil. The organisation therefore represents a significant public service in Brazil.

However, despite its potential value, EBC has been slowly dismantled over the years, beginning under the Michel Temer government. In September 2016, the Brazilian government published a provisional measure (MP744) and formally began the process of restructuring EBC. This measure was subsequently approved by the Senate. The MP744 measure saw the replacement of EBC’s Board of Trustees – which had been entirely dismissed in 2016 – with an 11-member committee with the ability to deliberate on editorial and programming issues. Further, it allowed the Brazilian president to dismiss EBC’s CEO at any time; previously, the CEO could only be removed by the Board of Trustees.

The fallout of the restructuring included widespread resignations, pro-government content in EBC’s programming, the cancellation of contracts, and removal of content from the broadcaster’s platforms. While there was strong backlash, including a general strike by EBC employees in 2017 to protest the government’s tightening control and the country’s declining freedom of expression, no progress was made and the government seized more control of EBC.

Read more: The dismantling of Brazil’s public media

EBC’s restructuring was part of a bigger plan for the complete removal of public media in Brazil: in May 2019, President Jair Bolsonaro announced his plans to “extinguish” EBC and distribute its employees across other public agencies.

“The EBC is a burden for us and it will continue to be for its employees,” Bolsonaro had emphasised.


The message of EBC as a “burden” on Brazilian society is once again being touted as the government executes a large-scale privatisation programme. The planned privatisation, along with cuts in spending on social security and pensions, is said to be aimed at reducing the country’s public debt of 77% of its GDP by ridding it of inefficient assets.

While the conversation surrounding privatisation has largely centred on the state-run oil and electricity companies Petrobras and Eletrobras, EBC has been caught in the government’s crosshairs. In August 2019, sources revealed that EBC would be included in the government’s privatisation list. However, there was little news on the broadcaster’s privatisation until last month when EBC was formally included in the National Privatisation Programme. EBC’s sale is expected to free up approximately R$400 million in expenses.

According to a Folha de S.Paulo report, Minister of Communications, Fábio Faria, says that a decision on EBC has not yet been taken, although the company was included in the privatisation programme. “It may be privatisation, asset sales or closing. The main thing is to put expenses within revenue,” Faria said.

Frente em Defesa da EBC e da Comunicação Pública (The Front for the Defence of EBC and Public Broadcasting), a group created to push back against the broadcaster’s ruin and advocate for its accountability and independence, is fiercely against EBC’s privatisation. The group is all too familiar with the restrictive power of the government on EBC: The Front includes members such as Rita Freire, who was removed as the President of EBC’s Trustee Board, and EBC’s first ombudsman-general, Professor Laurindo Leal Filho. The organisation views the privatisation as yet another attempt by the Brazilian government to bring the broadcaster to its knees and limit pluralism.

“Exterminating the EBC would be another act of [censorship by] Jair Bolsonaro’s government. A coup against democracy. Are we going to accept silence? The EBC belongs to the Brazilian population!” the Front said in a Facebook post.

Similarly, FICA EBC, a grassroots movement created to support the broadcaster following threats to its survival, has not only slammed the privatisation but has debunked the government’s justifications. In a series of infographics, FICA disputed the government’s claims that EBC is making a loss and is dependent on the treasury and public spending. Further, FICA maintains that privatising EBC does not relieve public accounts; rather, the group said, “Privatising or extinguishing the EBC will INCREASE government spending. Private companies would have to be hired to provide EBC services at a much higher price. In addition to public communication, EBC produces and distributes Voz do Brasil [Voice of Brazil] and covers, yielding to other broadcasters, the official acts of the president. If this has to be done by private companies, the cost is quite high!”

In a series of graphics, FICA disputed government claims about EBC

Translation: Don’t fall into a trap! – They want to privatize YOUR public communication company, EBC, using arguments full of errors and misinformation. For you not to fall for this, we have separated THREE fake news repeated to exhaustion by those who do not know the work and the seriousness of the EBC vehicles. Let’s help spread the truth! #ficaEBC #defendaaEBC #jornalismopúblico (Photo source: FICA EBC)

Translation: 1. EBC makes a loss (FAKE NEWS) – Universities, hospitals, public schools and the EBC were not created to make a profit! EBC brings information, transparency and citizenship to the population. USA, France, Japan, Colombia (plus dozens of other countries) subsidize public broadcasting, in whole or in part. This is democracy! (Photo source: FICA EBC)

Translation: 2. Privatizing relieves public accounts (FAKE NEWS) – Privatizing or extinguishing the EBC will INCREASE government spending. Private companies would have to be hired to provide EBC services at a much higher price. In addition to public communication, EBC produces and distributes Voz do Brasil and covers, yielding to other broadcasters, the official acts of the president. If this has to be done by private companies, the cost is quite high! (Photo source: FICA EBC)

Translation: 3. EBC depends on the Treasury, has no revenue (FAKE NEWS) – EBC has its own fund, guaranteed by law and paid for by telecommunication companies. Today, this fund reaches R $ 2.5 billion. Considering an average cost of R $ 500 million, this fund would guarantee 5 years without the government having to spend 1 [Brazilian] real with the EBC. In other words, EBC does not depend on the Treasury or the “pocket” of the citizen! Enough of FAKE NEWS about EBC! (Photo source: FICA EBC)

The Public Media Alliance is dismayed by the continued decay of public media in Brazil. Public media serves an important function in democracies worldwide and EBC was once considered a source of quality, independent news in a challenging political environment. Now, at a time when Brazil is especially hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic – and when accountable, independent public media is needed more than ever – the news of the potential privatisation of EBC on the heels of its restructuring is extremely disappointing. Privatisation would truly be the death knell for public broadcasting in the country.

The PMA will continue to advocate for truly independent public service media in Brazil and globally.

Header Image: Panoramic view from TV tower in Brasilia. Credit: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo/Creative Commons