The government’s decision to wipe out the EBC Board of Trustees further derails the public broadcaster’s freedom and independence.

Brazil’s public media has been in the government’s crosshairs for a few months now. The government has been taking a series of measures in an attempt to hold the reins of the Empresa Brasil de Comunicação (EBC), and lead it in a way that leaves little space for independence and democracy.

Among the proposals, one provisional measure has already lead to the dismissal of EBC’s previous President, Ricardo Melo. Now it’s the turn of the Board of Trustees.

Yesterday October 10, the Conselho de Comunicação Social do Congresso (CCS) – the Congress’ Council of Social Communication –  approved the part of the provisional measure that will dismantle the EBC’s Board of Trustees. Jonas Valente, EBC journalist and President of the Federal District’s Professional Journalists Union (SJPDF), said that these measures will effectively turn the EBC into a “governmental company”.

One of the biggest criticisms that encouraged these measures is that public broadcasting in Brazil does not have a large audience. Yet, according to a member of the Board, Davi Emerich, the audience turnout should only be the key concern for commercial and private TV agencies. Public media, on the other hand, should be able to communicate to small and big audiences without having to face any “commercial pressures”.

Public broadcasting should focus more on the quality of the content it produces, which should not be measured in terms of numbers or revenue but on the “ability to create programmes that can shed light on topics that commercial companies have no interest in promoting”.

“Workers are being persecuted for their personal beliefs. We must prioritise a transparent and democratic selection processes that respect clear criteria,” – Jonas Valente

Removing the Trustee Board will contribute to removing this ability. “You cannot talk about efficiency when the board is eliminated from the scene,” said Emerich.

The Board of Trustees has thus decided to send a letter to the President of the Senate and House of Commons, to suggest the creation of a joint committee of senators and deputies of the parliament to conduct public hearings, and to discuss and formulate a new model of public communication in Brazil, using EBC as a model.

“Workers are being persecuted for their personal beliefs. We must prioritise a transparent and democratic selection processes that respect clear criteria,” said Valente.

The members of the now ex-Board of Trustees will keep on fighting to ensure the EBC remains true to its principles. “This Council was appointed by Brazilian society, and not by a government, to defend the public interest,” affirmed Rita Freire, ex-President of the Trustee Board. “And that is what we’ll do.”

Yet there is a chance that the provisional measure will be rejected, reaffirming the public nature of EBC and allowing it to respond to society rather than government. However,  this will be an uphill battle according to Freire, since the legislative majority is aligned with the government.

The Public Media Alliance will continue to support the need for strong and independent public media in Brazil

Header image: Workers gather for an assembly on 4 September to protest against government interference in the state broadcaster EBC. Credits: SJPDF/Jonas Valente