Follow the money
The diverse economic interests of media owners
Most of the 26 corporations studied in this survey own a series of media outlets of different types (TV, radio, print, online), as the indicators about horizontal concentration and cross ownership clearly show. In addition, many of them run related media businesses, such as news agencies, cable TV operators, movie production firms, record labels and others. However, many of these groups are also invested in other sectors of the economy, among which are of note the education, health, financial services, real estate and agribusiness, adding to their economic power.
Education and health: public services at the hands of private agents
In the basic education and university education areas, one of the most notable groups is Grupo Objetivo, one of the main private education conglomerates in the country, offering pre-admittance courses, but also running schools and universities (UNIP – Universidade Paulista), textbook publishers and advertising agencies. They own Grupo Mix de Comunicação, which comprises the radio station Mix FM and TV channels. Another important group is the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a North-American evangelical denomination, which owns Rede Novo Tempo de Comunicação, and private schools and universities in the country (UNASP – Centro Universitário Adventista de São Paulo, IAP – Instituto Adventista Paranaense, FADMINAS – Faculdade Adventista de Minas Gerais, Faculdade Adventista da Bahia and Faculdade Adventista da Amazônia). Still in the superior education sector, the owners of TV Vitoriosa (SBT Uberlândia, Minas Gerais) and of TV Goiânia (Band Goiânia, Goiás), among them former senator Wellignton Salgado (PMDB-Minas Gerais, 2005-2010) also own Associação Salgado de Oliveira de Educação e Cultura, which maintains the universities Universo and Unitri.
In the distance learning sector, Grupo Folha owns UOL edtech, one of the largest provider in the sector, formed by six companies that develop educational technologies for other companies, professionals and educational institutions. Cresça Brasil is a online course provider in professional training areas (business, handcrafts, cooking, information technology, health, beauty, among others), languages and public exams. Portal Educação offers free courses, professional training and graduate distance learning courses in Biological Sciences and Health, Sciences and Technology and Human and Social Sciences areas. Graduate courses are offered in partnerships with Universidade Católica Dom Bosco, Centro Universitário do Sul de Minas and Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul (PUC-RS). Ciatech develops and sells educational technologies aimed at corporations, such as digital learning platforms, leadership programs and augmented reality projects. Concurso Virtual and A Casa do Concurseiro offer prep courses for public admittance exams. Finally, EA Certificações prepares students for the acquisition of financial certificates.
In the executive education area, Grupo Alfa supports Fundação Dom Bosco, an autonomous no-profit organization which offers international certificates through the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) and The Association of MBA’s (AMBA®). One of the foundation’s campuses in Nova Lima (Minas Gerais) is named after Aloysio Faria, Grupo Alfa’s owner, and his son-in-law, Luiz Felipe de Souza Lima Vasconcellos is a member of the Curating Council, the maximum deliberative organ of FDC.
Some media groups also run foundations and educational projects operating in the public education schools. The most important in this area is Fundação Roberto Marinho (FRM), created in 1977. Their main project is Telecurso, created in the foundation’s early years with the purpose of improving learning in the basic and adult education field through television, according to the guidelines of Law 5.692/1971, which recognized education outside schools as an official educational means. The project became a public policy in the 1990s and, according to their institutional website, “from 1995 to 2016, 1.6 million students in public schools, or outside school, or with age-school year discrepancy have been formed by Telecurso in 12 Brazilian states. It was also implemented in NGOs, companies, community associations, unions and churches all around the country”. The project is financed by State governments in partnerships with companies and institutions. Through contracts between the foundation and state governments it operates until this day in the States of Minas Gerais, Pará, Paraíba, Pernambuco and Rondônia. Other states such as Acre and Amazonas have also hired the foundation and currently develop the project on their own. FRM also worked on the development of public museums such as Museu da Língua Portuguesa and Museu do Futebol in São Paulo, and MAR – Museu de Arte do Rio and Museu do Amanhã in Rio de Janeiro, administrated afterwards by social organizations, followed by FRM.
Grupo RBS owns Fundação Maurício Sirotsky Sobrinho, which organizes Prêmio RBS de Educação – Para Entender o Mundo, which awards prizes to teachers, schools and students who promote reading projects. For this, they establish partnerships with other public and private entities. In the education area, RBS also develops partnerships with PUC-RS (Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul): besides a partnership in content production, such as Caminhos para a Vitória, during the 2016 Olympics, Grupo RBS and PUC-RS signed an agreement in which company professionals and academics work together for the development of digital communication projects for the company’s media outlets at Tecnopuc (Scientific and Technology Park at the University). The project received financing from Finep, a public Brazilian company dedicated to promoting science, technology and innovation connected to the Federal Government.
Grupo Bandeirantes also develops projects in this area. BandNews radio organizes, since 2001, in a partnership with Fundação Itaú Social, Prêmio Escola Voluntária, a prize aimed at “forming, promoting and recognizing Basic Education schools, public or private, which develop volunteering projects in their communities”. For every edition, ten schools are selected and receive, according to their website, “a Rádio Bandeirantes team that teaches the students some concepts about radio journalism and practical instructions on how to create content for a radio station”. The news stories produced by the students are transmitted in the station’s programming. Finally, a judging commission selects the best works, which receive a cash prize to be invested in the schools.
Other groups develop smaller projects and less related to formal education, such as Grupo SADA (Fundação Medioli, which maintains, among others a daycare), Grupo Record, which maintains Intituto Ressoar, IURD (Universal Church of the Kingdom of God), which maintains Associação Beneficente Projeto Nordeste – ABPN (project Nova Canaã), a political platform to which bishop Marcelo Crivella, currently the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, belongs, Igreja Renascer em Cristo, which owns the NGO Gideão da Conquista, the Adventist Church, which develops social projects through ADRA Brasil, and Grupo Silvio Santos, which created SBT do Bem.
It is important to mention the strict relationship Grupo Abril has kept with the education area, both public and private, throughout their history. Already in the 1960s, the group, founded by Victor Civita, developed textbooks for MOBRAL – Brazilian Literacy Movement, an organ created by the Military Dictatorship (1964-1985) for the promotion of literacy which replaced the educator Paulo Freire’s method which had been in use until then. In the 1980s, they founded Fundação Victor Civita, which created a series of publications focused on education and prizes aimed at education professional with distinguished performance. The group also bought book publishers Ática and Scipione (with their main client being the Ministry of Education) and founded Abril Educação, one of the largest private education groups in Brazil, gathering school systems Anglo, Ser, Maxi e GEO, pH course and school, Grupo ETB – Escolas Técnicas do Brasil, prep course SIGA, Escola Satélite, language schools Red Balloon and Wise Up and the online English learning community Livemocha. The Fundação main magazines, Nova Escola and Gestão Escolar, have been given recently to Fundação Paulo Lemann. Lemanni the richest man in Brazil, owner of the beverage conglomerate InBev and one of the founders of iG portal; Lemann has also been developing private management projects in the public education sector through his foundation. Abril Educação became Somos Educação in 2014 after Grupo Abril sold most of their shares to Tarpon Ivestimentos and the Government of Singapore.
Besides that, the former president of Grupo Abril, Roberto Civita, was also part of the deliberative council of ESPM (Superior School for Marketing and Advertisement) where, in 2010, he idealized IAEJ – Instituto de Altos Estudos em Jornalismo, responsible for the graduate course in Journalism with emphasis in editorial directing, later changed into the graduate course in digital journalism. Civita was also an adviser at NGO Instituto Verdescola, founded by his wife, Maria Antônia Civita in 2005. The institute operates in the juvenile offender’s education area, income generation and professional training. They have the titles of OSCIP - Organização da Sociedade Civil de Interesse Público (Social Organization of Public Interest), emitted by the Ministry of Justice, and CEBAS – Certificado de Entidade Beneficente de Assistência Social (Certificate of Social Assistance Beneficent Entity), emitted by the Ministry of Social Development, which facilitate the entity’s partnership with the public sphere, and makes it exempt of some taxes. Besides that, the NGO has sponsors and supporters such as Banco Itaú, Petrobras/Federal Government and Instituto Península, presided by the entrepreneur Ana Maria Diniz, who invented the public-private partnership Todos pela Educação, Somos Educação (former Abril Educação) and Itaú Social (all these benefit from tax exemption laws like FUMCAD, Cultura e Esporte), the government of the State of São Paulo, Fundação Lemann and Sesi SP.
In the health sector, the Seventh-day Adventist Church owns Cevisa – SPA Médico Educativo, Clínica e Espaço Vida Natural, Hospital Adventista, with units in Belém, Manaus, São Paulo, Campo Grande and Rio de Janeiro, besides a health insurance plan, Proasa. Grupo Hapvida, a private health system that runs a health insurance plan administrator, hospital and laboratories, also owns Sistema Opinião de Comunicações, with affiliates of SBT (TV Pinta Verde/SBT Alagoas, TV Ponta Negra/SBT Natal and TV Borborema/SBT Paraíba) and Bandeirantes (TV Manaíra/Bandeirantes Paraíba). We can also mention TV Centro Oeste, affiliate of Rede Vida in Cascavel (Paraná), owned by the doctor Marcos Solano Vale, who also owns Rádio Mundial FM in Toledo, Gazeta Mundial, Da Sol Linhas Aéreas, Hospital dos Olhos de Cascavel, Hospital Doutor Prime – Assistência à Saúde Familiar, Banco de Olhos de Cascavel, and other companies in the health sector; in 2014 he was candidate for federal deputy by PPS-Paraná but was not elected.
In addition, there is Grupo NC, owned by two Brazilian billionaires listed by Forbes magazine: São Paulo pharmaceutical businessman Carlos Sanchez, with 75% shareholding control and Rio Grande do Sul Lírio Parisotto, owner of petrochemical Videolar-Innova and financial investor in energy and metallurgy companies, with 25% shareholding control (Aguiar, 2015). Grupo NC was formed in 2014, bringing together the Sanchez family pharmaceutical activities and other business sectors. In the pharmaceutical sector, the group owns the companies: EMS, Brace Farma, Legrand, Germed Pharma, Novamed and CPM; NC Par also owns Bionovis, a biotechnology pharmaceutical company supported by BNDES and FINEP. In the financial investment sector, the group owns Privety Equity, which aims at “building a portfolio of shareholding in different companies. Generally NC Invest prioritizes smaller participation in the companies capitals, however, they seek to have an active presence in councils and committees”. The group also invests in the real state sector through 3D Reality. The most recent sector the group has operated in is energy: in late 2016, they have announced the acquisition of Odebrecht Energias Alternativas, a subsidiary of Odebrecht Energia, which owns the wind energy assets of Complexo Eólico Corredor do Senandes, located in Rio Grande (Rio Grande do Sul). Their slogan is: “A group born in a pharmacy to conquer Brazil”. In 2016, Grupo RBS, one of the largest regional media groups in Brazil, sold their TV channels and many of their radio stations in Santa Catarina state, besides newspapers, to Grupo NC. The groups remain partners and their media content are gathered in the ClicRBS portal.
Real estate investments and financial market
Of the 26 groups listed in this survey, eight are invested in the financial services sector. The most important of these is Grupo Alfa, a conglomerate formed by Banco Alfa, Banco Alfa de Investimento, Alfa Financeiro, Alfa Leasing, Alfa Corretora, Alfa Seguradora, Alfa Previdência, besides businesses in many other sectors, including media (Rede Transamérica de Rádio). Their owner, Aloysio de Andrade Faria, is listed by Forbes magazine as one of the Brazilian billionaires, and was mentioned above as one of the supporters of Fundação Dom Bosco. Grupo Ongoing, owner of the iG portal, partnered with the Portuguese Banco do Espírito Santo. The portal was founded by other financial groups, GP Investimentos and Opportunity, having as founding partners Nizan Guanaes, Jorge Paulo Lemann, Aleksandar Mandic e Matinas Suzuki Jr.. Grupo Record owns 49% of Banco Renner, located in the South region of the country, where the conglomerate also owns other media businesses, such as radio stations, the newspaper Correio do Povo and the regional affiliates of RecordTV.
Grupo RBS also owns RBSPrev – Sociedade Previdenciária, the Adventist Church has an insurance company (ARM Sul-Americana) and social security society IAJA; Grupo Amilcare Dallevo/Marcelo de Carvalho own a financing, billing and registration company, Débito Fácil Serviços; Grupo Folha has an online payment company, PagSeguro; and Grupo Sílvio Santos has Baú da Felicidade Crediário and Liderança Capitalização (Tele Sena), both businesses which benefit from publicity on their TV channel, SBT.
In the real estate sector, we find communication groups, which also own property managers, incorporating companies and related businesses, such as hotels and shopping malls. Grupo Objetivo, owned by João Carlos Di Gênio, biggest real estate owner in São Paulo, rents buildings for the groups’ own educational projects, where he makes the largest part of his profits. His real estate companies are worth almost R$1 billion.
Grupo SADA owns the real estate company I.B.I. Imobiliária Brasil Itália; Grup Sílvio Santos has the incorporating company Sisan; Igreja Renascer em Cristo has the rural-hotel Renascer, where they host, among others, spiritual retreats for the church; Grupo Ongoing also owns the construction engineering company Ongoing Infraestrutura, Oncasas Engenharia e Construção; and Grupo Alfa owns Rede Transamérica de Hotéis.
On the level of affiliates the situation is similar. Grupo Sa Cvalcante, owner of TV Capixaba (affiliate of Band in Espírito Santo) and Band News FM Espírito Santo, operates in the real estate incorporation business, shopping malls and franchises: it owns six shopping malls in Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, Maranhão, Piauí and Pará, and two other under construction. Another Espírito Santo group, Grupo Buaiz, which owns Jovem Pan, Jovem Pan News and RecordTV affiliates in Vitória (Espírito Santo), also owns real estate companies, a shopping center (Shopping Vitória), besides running businesses in the food sector, logistics and port operations; one of the family members, doctor Luiz Buaiz, was a federal deputy (PSDB, 1994-1998). Grupo Diário de Comunicação, which owns the RecordNews affiliate in Manaus (Amazonas), besides newspapers and an online portal, also own a real estate manager, a gas station and a car shop. Grupo SIM, owner of RecordNews affiliate in Espírito Santo, and of other TV, radio and print outlets, also owns companies in the real estate, hospitality, agribusiness and automobile sales sectors; the group’s owner, Rui Baromeu, was the mayor of São Mateus (PMDB, 1997-2000).
Besides, many of these protagonists – millionaires and billionaires who own the media – invest their profits in this same kind of patrimony, that generates even more profit through speculation. Among them José Roberto Marinho, Roberto Irineu Marinho and João Roberto Marinho of Grupo Globo; Aloyisio de Andrade Faria, of Grupo Alfa; Carlos Sanchez, of Grupo NC, connected to Grupo RBS; and the bishops of Igreja Renascer em Cristo.
The relations between the large media groups in Brazil and agribusiness, one of the main economic sectors in the country, go way back. The publishing house Folha da Manhã S.A. was formally constituted in 1931, having in its Board of Directors then Otaviano Alves de Lima (owner), Rubens do Amaral, Diógenes de Lemos Azevedo, Guilherme de Almeida, Pedro Cunha and Olival Costa. Otaviano de Lima came from a traditional family and reinforced the adoption of the company’s new editorial line, focusing on the “lavradores of São Paulo”, as he called the landowners, mainly coffee growers.
The approximation between newspapers and oligarchies was actually an ongoing process. The markedly São Paulo character of the Folhas had motivated their opposition in the 1930 Revolution, which removed the oligarchies of São Paulo and Minas Gerais from the control of the national politics. That movement would reappear in 1945, when José Nabantino Ramos took over the direction of the three Folhas. Nabantino had connections with General Eurico Gaspar Dutra, recently elected President of the Republic. One of the financiers of this business and new Director General of Folha da Manhã S.A., Alcides Ribeiro Meireles, had agrarian interests.
The same connection can be observed in other groups today. João Carlos Di Gênio, owner of Grupo Mix de Comunicação/Grupo Objetivo, has 5 Nelore cattle and animal reproduction farms, in partnerships with his university UNIP. Other Nelore cattle producers are the owners of TV Vitoriosa (SBT Uberlândia, Minas Gerais) and TV Goiânia (Band Goiânia, Goiás), and also owners of Associação Salgado de Oliveira de Educação e Cultura, which maintains the universities Universo and Unitri. Grupo Alfa owns Agropalma, a palm oil extraction company, and also a leather production company. The Marinho family also owns farms and agricultural production companies.
This relationship with the agribusiness can be observed both in the financial investments as in the content production of media outlets. Grupo RBS, whose shareholders are landowners, created Canal Rural de TV in 1996, latter sold to J&F Investments, controller of Frigorífico JBS, in 2013. The Saad family, of Grupo Bandeirantes, also a landowner, owns the TV channel Terraviva and, on Band News, Jornal Terraviva retransmits news about the agribusiness produced by the specialized channel. In 1989, the family had some of its lands expropriated for the Agrarian Reform.
In the logistic, transportation and port operations sector, at least two groups are of note. Grupo SADA, whose main company is SADA Transportes e Armazenagens S.A., also own correlated companies: SADA Logística; Auto Service Logística; Sada Logística e Armazenagens Gerais; TNorte Transportadora de Veículos; Transzero Transportadora de Veículos; Brazul Transportadora de Veículos; Dacunha SA; Deva Iveco; Erta Automotive; OMR Componentes Automotivos Brasil; Power Locadora de Veículos. Grupo Buaiz, one of the largest economic groups in Espírito Santo, owns TV Vitória (RecordTV ES), already mentioned for real estate businesses, owns logistic and port operations companies.
The energy sector has also been becoming more prioritized in the list of investments by communication groups. Grupo SADA owns Deva Distribuidora de Combustíveis, SADA Bio-Energia (ethanol plant in São Judas Tadeu), Eber Bio-Energia e Agricultura Ltda (ethanol plant in Montes Claros) and Berc Etanol e Agricultura Ltda. (ethanol plant in Aragarças) and Jaíba Energética (ethanol plant in Jaíba).
Some conflicts of interests emerging from these relations are evident. Other would require a more profound research on the content produced in each media. Among the evident relations, are of note the one between Rede Globo and Rede TEM, group of affiliate channels that transmit Globo’s programming to 318 of the 645 municipalities in the state of São Paulo. Their largest shareholder is José Hawilla, former Globo employee, currently owner of Traffic, a company specialized in sports businesses, for example responsible for marketing CBF (Brazilian Soccer Confederation) and the Brazilian National Team, owner of the commercial transmission rights for Copa América, Copa Mercosul, preolympic tournaments and South-American championships under 17 and under 20. Soccer games are of great importance for the audience and of great value for a large part of the TV channels and radio stations in Brazil. Accordingly, the transmission rights become an issue of dispute between broadcasters frequently. Rede Globo owns the transmission rights for the Brazilian Championship (CBF), the Brazilian Cup (CBF), state championships like São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro, Libertadores da América and South-American Cup.
The data analysed for this work suggest that the economic interests of media owners cannot – and should not – be looked at separately from their political affiliations and relationships with the churches.