History of Television Around the World - Latin America

About the history of television in the world and in Latin America and South America, popularity of soap operas.


Television is State-owned in only 3 of the Latin American countries--Cuba, Chile, and Colombia--with the rest of the nations operating on some sort of commercial basis. Venezuela has one government-owned station and 6 privately owned ones. Ecuador has 10 privately owned stations. Even so, it is not unusual to see the State step in. In Mexico, after the TV coverage of the student riots of 1968, the Government demanded, and received, 13% of all broadcasting time to explain its policies to the people.

The most prevalent type of program in Latin America is the tele-novela, essentially a soap opera. Virtually every country in Latin America bombards its TV viewers with these melo-dramas, most of them about poor country girls who move to the big city and suffer a series of trials and tribulations. A Buenos Aires producer has summed up the meaning of television in many neighboring countries, saying: "Novelas keep them mesmerized. For an hour or so they forget the conditions in which they live--perhaps it even stops them making revolutions."

Brazil, the land of machismo, has one female news broadcast--Miss Universe of 1963. One of Mexico's most popular programs is "Plaza Sesamo"--yes, that's "Sesame Street."

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