Beyond Citizen Kane, a documentary on the 1989 Brazilian election, argues that broadcaster Rede Globo manipulated the montage in favour of one of the two remaining candidates, writes Felipe Correa.
In 1989, Brazil held its first democratic elections in 29 years, after a period of military dictatorship. In the second and final round, two candidates were disputing the presidency of the new democratic republic: Lula da Silva and Fernando Collor. Two days before the election, Rede Globo, by far the most popular broadcasting television in Brazil, broadcast a montage of the final debate between the two candidates during its prime time news programme, which reached 61 rating points.
In 1993, this event was discussed on Channel 4‘s documentary Beyond Citizen Kane (watch it here in Portuguese). The director Simon Hartog argues that Rede Globo manipulated the montage in favour of Collor. In response, Rede Globo tried unsuccesfully to dispute under British law Channel 4’s right to use short extracts from Globo programmes without permission.
The first public screening of the film in Brazil was to occur in São Paulo in 1994, but was mysteriously cancelled on the order of the state governor. During the late 1990s, copies of the documentary had limited circulation in Brazil. However, with the internet boom in the 2000s, the film was uploaded by netizens and is now widely available.
In 2011, José Bonifácio Sobrinho, Rede Globo’s former vice president of operations, openly affirmed that Roberto Marinho, the founder and owner of the organisation, had given an explicit order to broadcast a manipulated montage in favour of Collor. Bonifácio Sobrinho argued that Rede Globo was free to edit the debate in whatever way they wanted. On its official website, Rede Globo defends itself stating that they used “the same editing criteria as they would use for a football match: select the best moments of each team”.
Although the outcome of the elections cannot be entirely attributed to this episode, many argued that the manipulated montage influenced the decision of many voters, and that it may have helped Collor’s victory over Lula, as the difference was a small margin of votes: 49.94% for Collor, 44.23% for Lula.