A proposed restructuring of Brazil’s public broadcaster was approved last week in a bid to make the organisation more efficient whilst also undermining its autonomy.

The mixed commission that reviewed the controversial ‘Provisional Measure 744/16’ regarding the restructure of the Empresa Brasil de Comunicação (EBC) gave its approval last Thursday, with supervision from rapporteur, Senator Lasier Martins. The overall aim of the measure and Lasier’s report, was to increase the efficiency of the public broadcaster.

We want to make the EBC less costly, more efficient, with more audience and, if possible also discuss a PDV [voluntary redundancy plan]”, said Lasier.

A new structure

The removal of the Board of Trustees was one of the most controversial acts of the provisional measure 744, which was edited and proposed by Brazil’s President Michel Temer on 2 September. Many voices in the Parliament – including Lasier’s –  deemed the Board as partisan, “inflated of employees” which negatively affected the public broadcaster’s performance.

Martins proposed instead too create an Editorial and Programming Committee to substitute the organisation’s Board of Trustees, which was comprised of 22 representatives of civil society and the government.

We understand that it was very important to separate management and content. So we kept the Board of Directors, which takes care of the material and financial part and we separate with complete independence the Editorial and Programming Committee,” said Lasier.

Unlike the previous Board, the new structure will see a committee of 11 members, with no administrative function in the organisational chart of the company. Instead, it will have the scope to deliberate on editorial and programming issues. There will be one representative from each of the following segments: public radio and television stations; experts in social communication; independent audiovisual industry; legislative communication vehicles; cultural community; scientific community; entities for the protection of the rights of children and adolescents; human rights and minority rights organisations; civil society organisations in defense of the right to communicate; higher education personnel; and EBC employees. Their term of office will be two years without renewal and they are not allowed to have any religious affiliations or links with political parties.

More power to the President

Most concerning is that Lasier’s report also confirms the ability of Brazil’s President to dismiss the CEO of the company at any time – this first happened when Temer removed then CEO Ricardo Melo, in late September. Before this measure, the CEO had a four-year mandate and could only be removed by the Board of Trustees.

Senator Paulo Rocha particularly criticised this aspect of the report as it calls into question one of the key pillars of public broadcasting: autonomy from the State. According to him, a public broadcaster’s independence is key to upholding a democratic political environment and government.

To link the appointment of the [EBC’s] President and the EBC itself to the President of the Republic is to put behind us what we had already achieved,” – Senator Paulo Rocha

More concerns stem from how this new editorial committee will come about. Under the approved text, the 11 members of  the committee will be appointed by the President from a list nominated by a civil society entity for a two year term with no possibility of renewal. Furthermore, a presidential decree will regulate the suggestions made by the entities.

The composition of the Executive Board will also decrease from the current 8 to 6 members, who can also be dismissed and appointed by the president.

Technological developments

Lasier’s report also mentioned projects to upgrade and modernise EBC’s production and transmission equipment, asking for a more continuous training to improve the broadcaster’s efficiency and excellence in the production of content.

Lasier’s report will be further analysed and voted on today, 13 December. However, it will finally be voted by the Senate no later than February as the provisional measure is set to expire on 9 February 2017.

Header image: Brazil’s National Congress, Brasilia, D.F. Credits: Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz/Creative Commons