As in the US, Brazil has a regional press rather than a national one. Even the top Rio and São Paulo papers are a little parochial; elsewhere, newspapers are at best mediocre but are always valuable for listings of local events. Brazil also boasts a lurid but entertaining yellow press, specializing in gruesome murders, political scandals and football.
Newspapers and magazines
The top newspapers are the slightly left-of-centre Folha de São Paulo and the Rio-based, right-of-centre O Globo, usually available, a day late, in large cities throughout the country. Both are independent and have extensive international news, cultural coverage and entertainment listings, but are respectable rather than exciting. Even stodgier but reasonable is the right-wing Estado de São Paulo, while the Gazeta Mercantil and Valor Econômico are high-quality equivalents of the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal. The most enjoyable of the yellow press is Rio’s Última Hora, especially good for beginners in Portuguese, with a limited vocabulary and lots of pictures, but all major cities have similar local tabloids.
There are also two good weekly current-affairs magazines: Veja and Isto É. They are expensive, around US$5, since their readership is exclusively middle class. You will find Brazilian editions of most major fashion and women’s magazines. The weekly Placar is essential for anyone wanting to get to serious grips with Brazilian football. Vogue Brasil, edited in São Paulo and published by Condé Nast, is a quality magazine offering great insight into the style of the Brazilian elite, while Plástica is a glossy monthly magazine that sheds light on Brazil’s apparent obsession with plastic surgery.
Apart from in airports, Rio and São Paulo, where you can find the International Herald Tribune and the Economist, English-language newspapers and magazines are very difficult to find in Brazil. The exceptions are Time and Newsweek, which are widely available in newspaper kiosks in big cities, albeit often weeks old.
Radio is always worth listening to if only for the music. FM stations abound everywhere, and you should always be able to find a station that plays local music. Shortwave reception for the BBC World Service is good in Brazil.
Brazilian TV is ghastly, the worst you are ever likely to see, and therefore compulsive viewing even if you don’t understand a word of Portuguese. There are several national channels, of which the most dominant is TV Globo, the centrepiece of the Globo empire, Latin America’s largest media conglomerate. The empire was built up by Brazil’s answer to Rupert Murdoch, Roberto Marinho, who died in 2003. One of the most powerful men in Brazil, Marinho was very cosy with the military regime and prone to use his papers and TV channels as platforms for his ultra-conservative views. The other major national channels are Manchete, TV Bandeirantes, SBT and Record.
The channels are dominated by telenovelas, glossy soap operas that have massive audiences in the evenings. Football coverage is also worth paying attention to, a gabbling, incomprehensible stream of commentary, punctuated by remarkably elongated shouts of “Gooooool” whenever anyone scores – which is often, Brazilian defenses being what they are. However, there are a few genuine highlights, notably Jô Soares, the funniest and cleverest of Brazilian comedians, who hosts a very civilized late-night chat show on Globo every weekday.
Brazilian has the highest number of computers with internet access in South America and all things online are highly developed, with internet cafés on every corner, and much of what used to be tediously queued up for – banking, cinema-going, buying plane tickets – now done online as a matter of course.