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Intercom: Revista Brasileira de Ciências da Comunicação

versão impressa ISSN 1809-5844versão On-line ISSN 1980-3508

Intercom, Rev. Bras. Ciênc. Comun. vol.42 no.3 São Paulo set./dez. 2019  Epub 02-Dez-2019 


Content or Money? Differences between communication policies of Dilma and Temer governments in Brazil

Emerson Urizzi Cervi1

Fernanda Cavassana de Carvalho2

1(Universidade Federal do Paraná, Setor de Ciências Humanas, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciência Política. Universidade Federal do Paraná, Setor de Artes, Comunicação e Design, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Comunicação. Curitiba – PR, Brasil).

2(Universidade Federal do Paraná, Setor de Ciências Humanas, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciência Política. Curitiba – PR, Brasil. Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa, Setor de Ciências Sociais e Aplicadas,Departamento de Jornalismo. Ponta Grossa – PR, Brasil).


The paper discusses different communication strategies of governments based on a specific case study: the transition between the Dilma Rousseff (PT) and Michel Temer (PMDB) governments in the presidency of Brazil. Using data from federal government´s monthly accounts, we compare the expenses of this two president’s production of contents to be broadcasted in public media, with production and payment in the commercial communication system. We propose a typology of action in relation to the communication strategies, which goes from a more passive government and it´s dependent on the private system to a more active government directed to public media. The data show that the main difference between Dilma and Temer is that the former invested more in public system, with low audience, while the latter increased spending on the traditional means of the private communication system.

Keywords Communication politics; Federal Government; Brazil; 2016


O texto discute diferentes estratégias de comunicação de governos a partir de um estudo de caso específico: a transição entre os governos Dilma Rousseff (PT) e Michel Temer (PMDB) na presidência da República Federativa do Brasil. Utilizando dados das prestações de contas mensais do Governo Federal, comparamos os gastos dos dois presidentes com a produção de conteúdos a serem veiculados em meios públicos ou estatais, com gastos de produção e veiculação no sistema comercial de comunicação. Propomos uma tipologia de atuação frente às estratégias comunicacionais, que vai de governo mais passivo e dependente do sistema privado até governo mais ativo e voltado para os próprios meios de comunicação. Os dados mostram que a principal diferença entre Dilma e Temer é que a primeira investiu mais em comunicação própria, com baixa audiência, enquanto o último aumentou os gastos com os meios tradicionais do sistema privado de comunicação.

Palavras chave Política de comunicação; Governo Federal; Brasil; 2016


La propuesta del texto es discutir distintas estrategias de comunicación de gobiernos a partir de un estudio de caso: la transición entre los gobiernos Dilma Rousseff (PT) y Michel Temer (PMDB) en la presidencia de la república brasileña. Utilizando datos de la rendición de cuentas mensuales del gobierno federal, comparamos los gastos de los dos presidentes en la producción de contenidos a ser vehiculados en medios públicos con gatos de producción y difusión en el sistema comercial de comunicación. Proponemos una tipología de actuación frente a las estrategias comunicacionales, que van de gobierno más pasivo y dependiente del sistema privado hasta gobierno más activo y orientado hacia los propios medios de comunicación. Los datos indican que la principal diferencia entre Dilma y Temer es que la primera invirtió más en comunicación propia, con baja audiencia, mientras que el último aumentó dos gastos con los medios tradicionales del sistema privado de comunicación.

Palabras-clave Comunicación política; Gobierno Federal; Brasil; 2016


This study aimed to discuss forms of institutional relationship between the Federal Government and the social communication system based on the communication policies adopted by the governments of Dilma Rousseff (PT) and Michel Temer (PMDB) in Brazil. Communication policies consist of projects of State intervention in national communication, directly or indirectly, either by the regulation of private media or by the use of state media (RAMOS, 2000). This, therefore, includes norms established by the Constitution and complementary legislation and strategies and direct decisions of the Federal Government. As a study object, we considered the characteristics and strategies of the Brazilian government in the communication area, institutionally employed by the Social Communication Department of the Presidency of the Republic (SECOM)1 and by the Brazilian Communication Company (EBC in Portuguese). Some strategies employed by the Federal Government since the creation of the EBC in Lula’s government, maintained until the end of Dilma government, underwent changes as early as the first months of Temer administration. This study presents and discusses these differences.

We start from the following question: What were the main changes in communication policies in Temer government in comparison with the previous government? The hypothesis is that the differences between the strategies used by Temer and those employed by Dilma are mainly related to the use of resources in the communication area. In Dilma government, these resources were used in the production of own contents and, in Temer government, started to be directed to the production and dissemination via commercial companies, being characterized as a more passive orientation, pro-market.

A comparative method was used for two cases since the characteristics of the communication policies in the Temer government are compared to those of Rousseff. To organize the comparative analysis, we propose an initial typology that allows us to identify differences between the spending strategies of governments in communication. For this, we considered the information on the accountability of expenses of the direct administration in 2016, obtained from the Transparency Portal of the Federal Government2. From a theoretical point of view, we worked in a continuum that goes from one extreme, in which all strategy for the dissemination of government content is performed through state media, to the other, in which the communication is transferred to the private commercial media, through production and investment in publicizing especially advertising pieces. That is, a strategy that privileges the transfer of content as a resource to another in which the money is privileged.

The article is divided into four parts. The first one contextualizes the communication of the Federal Government of Brazil between 2016 and 2017, presenting its structure and discussing the characteristics of production and distribution of content, from the proposal of three ideal types of government communication policies. The second one shows the data from the Brazilian Media Survey of 20153, which deals with the knowledge of public communication vehicles by Brazilians. This approach makes it possible to discuss, later, the government’s investment in the media, starting from the people’s interest who know and follow the contents of these media. The third part compares the communication policies of the Dilma and Temer governments, based on the EBC and SECOM spending reference in relation to the direct spending of the Union in 2016. The limitation in this year is justified by the comparative strategy of total spending. Since public budgets are annual, the direct comparison between expenses over different years would be incorrect4. Thus, we used the means of the first five months of 2016 to represent Rousseff’s government and the other seven months to represent Temer government. Finally, the results are discussed in the last part.

The communication in the Brazilian Federal Government

The definition of public communication can be found within a normative ideal which determines that this communication be focused on the public interest, the right to information and explored in the search for social responsibility of media vehicles. Thus, it contemplates both initiatives of civil society and those of public and private sectors, as long as it contemplates the communicative process like the one in aid of citizenship (DUARTE, 2007, MATOS, 2011, 2013, WEBER; COELHO; LOCATELLI, 2017). For Zémor (2005), public communication must be centralized to the State, which is its main actor. When dealing with state initiatives as an object, the studies in this area usually favor investigations on the government communication policies or the communicative and informative relationships between State and society. On the content produced by such initiatives, it is usually evaluated the quality of public communication considering requirements such as plurality, diversity and public policies (GUERRA et al, 2013).

Assuming that the government is committed to the publicization of its actions, it can perform the publicity at several levels. According to Silva (2007), there are six forms of government action within a political advertising scale: (1) publication of political subjects, as it occurs in the Brazilian federal context by the Official Gazette of the Union; (2) accessibility to public authority data; (3) availability of public utility data; (4) production of journalistic information independent of the commercial media; (5) state broadcast services; (6) the State acting as an advertiser, aiming at a broad dissemination of government appeals. Pinho (2008) was one of the first authors to point out the limitations in electronic portals of governments regarding the provision of information to the public. Luz and Weber (2019), also compared the communication of the governments Dilma and Temer, emphasize the importance of maintaining the contents in these portals when there are exchanges of government, so that constitution, preservation and institutionalization of democratic memory. Furthermore, Almeida and Simon (2017) demonstrate how the public communication professionals themselves understand in different ways what is the Public Communication made by the State and its institutions.

Thus, the communication managed by the State may assume various dimensions and purposes. It is necessary, therefore, to distinguish public/citizen communication, with cultural and informative content independent of the commercial media (ZÉMOR, 2005), from the government communication, which is proper to the Executive sectors, aiming at the diffusion of their appeals and interests (CANEL; SANDERS, 2016). The communication of government is more political than citizen and also takes place in different dimensions, public, and interests, such as the party relationships. Here we are interested in governmental communication focused on society.

In Brazil, the Federal Government is an example of using governmental and presidential communication tools for many decades. It has the oldest broadcast program in the Southern Hemisphere – “A Voz do Brasil” (The Voice of Brazil) – with daily and uninterrupted broadcasts since 1934. In addition, since the 1970s, there has been a state educational television system, of which stations are mostly controlled by the state governments, in addition to others linked to federal universities, which are closer to a public/citizen communication model. This system was created by the military regime with the purpose of preserving the state control over the national coverage system, even though this system was not competitive with the private system which was becoming stronger at that time (BOLAÑO; BRITTOS, 2011).

In 2007, at the beginning of the second government of Lula, the communication sector of the Federal Government decided to create a structure that would differentiate government production from the production of public content. For this, the Brazil Communication Company (EBC) was created with the purpose of strengthening a public system of content production, differentiating governmental content, state content and independent production which cannot be conveyed in the media commercial system5. In this case, the Ministry of Culture played an important role, especially focused on the cultural development of the audiovisual sector through public TV (ROCHA, 2013). One of the implementation strategies of the EBC was management under social control, through the Curator Council – collegiate, advisory and deliberative – responsible for approving the work plan of the company and representing the society in the choice of produced contents6. Therefore, at that time, its creation led to discussions in the Legislative and in the press (MIOLA, 2012). However, one of the criticisms faced then was because civil society advisers were also nominated by the Executive (BOLAÑO; BRITTOS, 2011). This collegiate body worked until September 2016, then it was extinguished by the President Michel Temer when he conducted a restructuring of the EBC. Coutinho and others (2018) showed that the extinction of this council represents a loss of EBC’s autonomy in the production of content in front of the federal Executive Branch.

Within this delimitation, the EBC, as a representative of public communication, manages a structure that includes TV Brasil, International TV Brasil, Brazil Agency, National Radioagency and all public radio system, composed of eight broadcasters. A Content Center coordinates all production and transmission. Regarding the government content, the EBC meets the Presidency of the Republic through productions for the TV NBR and the program “A Voz do Brasil”7.

With digital technologies, the Federal Government adopted a mixed strategy of institutional communication, maintaining the production of content in conventional media – radio and TV – but also migrating to digital media. This was made through the creation of new products specific to these platforms, such as web portals, and by using digital social networks relevant in the country. Although these two sets of content are always produced in a distinct way, making it clear what is governmental action and what is the president’s action, they “circulate” in the communicational environments of the government8. Rodrigues Filho and Gomes (2004) analyze in detail the types of public investments in information technology (IT) in Brazil as a form of accountability of governments to society.

To simplify the complexity of the production forms and the relationship between State, society and communication market, we proposed a classification from ideal types. It is worth mentioning that this strategy aims to simplify the representation of the main differences between models and does not allow direct reproduction in the empirical world. As shown in Chart 1, there are three ideal types of governments depending on the intensity of content production: state content, public content and government content which are broadcasted by funding the private communication system. This last category includes, for example, government advertisements produced by contracted commercial agencies and transmitted in private system media.

Chart 1 Types of communication policies per intensity of content production 

Types of communication policies Governmental production Public production Financing of the private system
Active government High Medium Low
Pro-society passive government Medium High Low
Pro-market passive government Medium Low High

Source: authors.

Thus, with regard to communication policies, “active” governments have high governmental content production; medium public content production and low funding of media from the private system. In governments of communication content, when the governments have medium governmental content production, high public content production – such as cultural content – and low funding of the private sector, they can be classified as “pro-society passives”. Finally, when the government communication policy is directed toward a medium governmental production, low public content production and a high level of funding of the private communication system, it is classified as “pro-market passives” government.

In the following topics, to identify differences between the Dilma and Temer governments, we will consider the government expenses with communication policies of the EBC, for cultural content and publicizing of actions of the Presidency of the Republic, and the expenses with the SECOM, for production and broadcast of content in the media of the private system.

In addition, these ideal types can be characterized by three sets of information available. The first one refers to the predominant type of content produced, which may be: (1) cultural content – of public interest, neither government advertising nor broadcasted in commercial media; (2) governmental content – advertising typically of government actions or policies defended by rulers; (3) commercial contents – when production is mostly under the responsibility of the private communication system. In a complementary way, it is also possible to identify what kind of resource the government predominantly mobilizes in its communication strategies, and also, how these resources are distributed. The forms of production and distribution of communication resources in the three ideal types of communication policies are shown in Chart 2.

Chart 2 Production and distribution of resources per ideal type of communication policy 

Active Types of communication policies
Pro-society passive Pro-market passive
Production Cultural content Medium High Low
Governmental content High Medium Medium
Commercial content Low Low High
Resources Type of distributed resource Content Content Resources R$
Form of distribution Concentrated dispersed Concentrated

Source: authors.

According to Chart 2, active governments are strong producers of governmental content, intermediate producers of cultural content, and have low investment in commercial content. The content is the predominant type of resource, being distributed in a concentrated way in the state media. The “pro-society passive” government has high production of cultural content, medium production of governmental content and low production with political/commercial appeal. Its own content is the predominant resource and the form of distribution is dispersed in a network of public media, not concentrated in the state or private media. Finally, the “pro-market passive” has low cultural production, medium direct governmental production, and high political/commercial production. Regarding the previous models, the content is no longer the main type of distributed resource, and financial resources are distributed to finance the production of political content in the commercial system, such as the production and transmission of advertising pieces. The form of distribution is again concentrated but in commercial communication networks of national scope.

It is evident that this description of the ideal types of governments refers only to the strategies of the government as a producer and in the distributions of communicational resources. With regard to the accomplishment of the effects – that is, to make the content reach the public – there is a need to consider the transmission capacity of the different media: public, state and commercial. A type of government that chooses to prioritize own production and distribution by public and state media can only be successful if the public has access to such media and interest in accessing governmental content. This is discussed in the next topic.

The Brazilian Media Research and governmental content in 2015

To investigate access to different types of content and media in Brazil, the SECOM has gathered a group of researchers to conduct a national opinion survey every year, since 2014 (GRAMACHO; JÁCOMO, 2015). This project, called Brazilian Media Research (PBM) 9, aims to identify patterns of content consumption (audience) by the Brazilian population. One of the main justifications for its implementation was that the results should support the direction of government investments in communication. In the first two editions, the PBM pointed out the accesses, knowledge, and approval of programs and communication channels of the Federal Government. However, it should be noted that in 2016, already reflecting changes in government communication due to the new presidency, the most recent research did not include public media. In addition, the questionnaire used in 2016 was reduced and thus had the primary function of indicating the audience and content consumption of private media.

Thus, this first part of the analysis shows the results obtained by the PBM on the level of knowledge and consumption of the channels (audience) and own content of the Federal Government in 2015, in order to contextualize the consumption scenario of these productions before looking at the strategies in this area in 2016. The respondents’ answers on the interest in Federal Government news are summarized in Table 1. As can be seen, 45.6% of respondents said they have a lot of interest or medium interest in this content. Another 31% said they had little interest and only 21.3% showed no interest in the Federal Government news.

Table 1 Level of interest of the population in the Federal Government news 

Answers N % total % cumulative
Lot of interest 3.179 17,4 17,4
Medium interest 5.165 28,2 45,6
Little interest 5.682 31,0 76,6
No interest 3.900 21,3 97,9
Don’t know 262 1,4 99,3
Didn’t reply 124 0,7 100,0
Total 18.312 100,0
Question: How much interest do you have about what the government does?

Source: PBM-2015.

Three out of every four people in the sample said they have any interest in information about the Federal Government; this data reinforces the relevance, together with citizens, of investments and official actions in the area of institutional communication. In Brazil, this type of action has existed for more than eight decades, through the radio. “A Voz do Brasil”10 is a daily radio program, broadcasted at 7:00 pm in Brasília, with mandatory retransmission by all radio stations in the country, dealing with content on the three Federal Branches. By 2018, retransmission was supposed to take place at the same time as the live broadcast. Currently, the time for retransmission by commercial broadcasters is flexible, it may be performed between 7:00 and 10:00 pm, respecting the 60-minute interrupts of the program11. The first 25 minutes of the program are the responsibility of the Federal Executive Branch and transmitted live from the EBC Services studios in Brasília. The next five minutes are intended for the Judiciary Branch. The last half hour of the program is divided into 20 minutes for the Chamber of Deputies and 10 minutes for the Federal Senate. The Federal Audit Court has a daily minute on three days of the week to transmit its content. The program “A Voz do Brasil” has also been broadcast on the Internet since 2012.

The percentage of respondents who said they had heard about “A Voz do Brasil” is shown in Table 2. A total of 57% of Brazilians know the program, albeit superficially. On the other hand, 42.9% said they have never heard about it. Considering the distribution of the radio in the country12, the time of existence of the program and the fact its retransmission is mandatory throughout the national territory, the percentage of people who have never even heard about the program becomes considerably high. Nevertheless, as it will be seen next, “A Voz do Brasil” is the Brazilian product of governmental communication most accessed by the population, according to the research.

Table 2 Level of knowledge of “A Voz do Brasil” 

Answers N % total % valid
Yes 10.247 56,0 57,0
No 7.707 42,1 42,9
Don’t know 291 1,6
Didn’t reply 67 0,4
Total 18.312 100,0 100,0
Question: Do you know “A Voz do Brasil”, even if you only hear about it?

Source: PBM-2015.

In addition to quantitative analysis, the PBM-2015 also makes possible a qualitative evaluation of the program by listeners. The percentages of answers with evaluations from “optimum” to “very poor” (% valid) for “A Voz do Brasil” are shown in Table 3. “Good” had the highest percentage, with 52.1% of the total respondents who said they listen to the program at least once a week. Considering the two positive answers together (“optimum” and “good”), the percentage rises to 62.9% of listeners. Twenty-five percent considered the program as regular and 12.1% negatively evaluated it, when adding the “bad” to the “very poor” answers. These data show that there is predominantly a positive evaluation of the content transmitted in the program among those who said they had already listened to it at least once a week.

Table 3 Evaluation of the quality of the “A Voz do Brasil” by listeners 

Answers N % total % valid % cumulative
Optimum 877 4,8 10,9 10,9
Good 4201 22,9 52,1 62,9
Regular 2016 11,0 25,0 87,9
Bad 525 2,9 6,5 94,4
Very poor 449 2,5 5,6 100,0
Does not apply 8065 44,0
Don’t know 2039 11,1
Didn’t reply 140 0,8
Total 18312 100 100
Question: Do you think the content of “A Voz do Brasil” is:

Source: PBM-2015.

From January 2003, in the first month of the president Lula’s (PT) government, the government debuted a weekly radio program presented by the president himself. It was called “Breakfast with the President” and, from 2011, it was renamed “Breakfast with the woman President”. In Portuguese, “Café com a Presidenta”. Differently from “A Voz do Brasil” – which is produced and presented by a team of journalists and communication professionals – the “Breakfast with the President” had the direct participation of the President of the Republic himself. The president talks directly to the listener about government decisions, public policies or government programs. It was, therefore, a governmental and non-cultural political content – cultural meaning a set of content produced by the state media on themes related to aspects of social groups and not on the government itself.

Weekly and six minutes long, the program was broadcasted on Mondays, with open access to all Brazilian radio stations – with the active participation of invited professionals who sent questions – and it was also available on government portals on the Internet. Its retransmission was not mandatory, as in the case of “A Voz do Brasil”. In Temer administration, the production of this program, under the responsibility of the EBC, was also canceled. When the respondents were asked by the PBM-2015 if they had already heard about the “Breakfast with the President”, only 13.7% of them answered yes. The majority of them (81.2%) said they had never heard about such program and the others did not know. It should be noted that, although the original program was not as well known, Temer’s strategy limited public access to governmental information in other dimensions, since the content of this morning program often had repercussions in other broadcasters, including commercial media dealing with issues of interest to the Government.

Table 4 lists the distribution of answers of those who said had already listened to the program and of those who have never heard about the “Breakfast with the woman President”, measuring the program audience. Of the total number of respondents, only 5.3% said they had already heard about the “Breakfast with the woman President” at any moment. Among those who said they know about the program, 39.3% (valid%) had already listened to some edition of it.

Table 4 Audience of the “Café com a Presidenta” 

Answers N % total % valid
Yes 977 5,3 39,3
No 1509 8,2 60,6
Does not apply 15798 86,3
Don’t know 14 0,1
Didn’t reply 14 0,1
Total 18312 100,0 100,0
Question: Did you already hear the radio program “Café com a Presidenta”?

Source: PBM-2015.

The number of respondents who knew the program “Breakfast with the woman President” was three times lesser than the number of those who knew “A Voz do Brasil”. In addition to radio programs, the Brazilian government also invests in institutional communication via television, which is the main media for political information for Brazilians (GRAMACHO; JÁCOMO, 2015, MUNDIM, 2015) and has expanded its activities in online platforms13. In 1997, the then president Fernando Henrique Cardoso founded the TV NBR (National TV of Brazil). The justification for the opening of this television channel was the demand of the Federal Government for media coverage of solemnities and official acts of the presidency. Due to limited coverage or no coverage by the private media, a channel was created to make this coverage through official live broadcasts. Its purpose was to provide a space for the public to have access to and to know the daily activities of the President of the Republic. This channel is transmitted through a signal captured by satellite dishes and broadcasted by Pay-TV. When the TV NBR was created in 1997, it encompassed a network of 15 broadcasters, especially in the northern region of the country, with UHF transmission and an open signal. Currently, it is linked to online social networks14 and it is possible to watch its broadcasts through a YouTube channel15, official profiles on Facebook16 and Twitter17, as well as in the Federal Government portals on the Internet.

In contrast to the TV NBR’s officialdom, the EBC founded the “TV Brasil” in 2007, with the purpose of transmitting educational content and cultural productions independent of the Executive Branch. It should be noted that the TV Brasil started from the unification of three broadcasters previously maintained by the Federal Government: Brasília National TV, TVE Brasil Network of Rio de Janeiro and TVE of São Luís, in the state of Maranhão (VALENTE, 2009). Therefore, unlike TV NBR, TV Brasil is not an official broadcaster that publicizes governmental actions. Although it is financed with public resources, TV Brasil tries to be like a public model of programming focused on cultural content. Thus, the EBC hopes to balance the production of state content with a broadcaster closer to public and non-governmental communication. According to Carvalho (2014) government vehicles, such as the NBR, report the actions of the three powers and are managed by the representatives of each power, not by a management and plural council. Therefore, they are the opposite of a public communication system.

The percentages of answers on the knowledge of TV NBR and TV Brasil by the Brazilians. Regarding the total of respondents, only 15.5% said they know or had already heard about the TV NBR. On the other hand, double that percentage (31.9%) said they know the TV Brasil, that is, with regard to state television production, there is twice as much knowledge of cultural content18 as official content related to the presidency.

Table 5 Knowledge of Federal Government TV broadcasters by Brazilians 

Answers TV NBR TV Brasil
N % total N % total
Yes 2836 15,5 5849 31,9
No 14617 79,8 12217 66,7
Don’t know 793 4,3 197 1,1
Didn’t reply 66 0,4 49 0,3
Total 18312 100,0 18312 100,0
Question: Do you know the TV (NBR or Brasil), even if you only listen?

Source: PBM-2015.

In the last decade, in addition to investments in television and radio diffusion, the Federal Government has invested in opening spaces on digital platforms, either through own web portals and weblogs or through profiles and institutional pages in online social networks19. The presence of government in essentially social environments, such as digital networks, promotes public communication initiatives by expanding access to public management information (ROTHBERG; VALENÇA, 2014). It is emphasized that the option to keep publicizing content relating to the acts of the president separated from the content of public policies was maintained on the new platforms.

The “Portal Brasil”20 is an Internet portal that gathers news of ministries’ measures, new laws and information on public policies. Its content is more impersonal and cannot be characterized as a portal to publicize the president’s acts. Texts, videos, audios on different topics related to the government are made available in the “Portal Brasil”, in addition to the “open data” space for the availability of databases on public policies. It is an institutional portal. Parallel to the “Portal Brasil”, the Executive Branch maintains pages and profiles for publicizing the activities and actions of the President of the Republic, such as the “Planalto Palace”21, which is the main website and contains information about the president’s official agenda. “Blog do Planalto” was another important online government communication channel, which provided texts by the President Dilma Rousseff, as well as information, images and videos of her participation in official ceremonies. This blog was taken off the air in the Temer government.

Table 6 summarizes the answers of Brazilians to the questions on the knowledge of each of the three digital spaces. Considering the total of answers, there were low percentages of respondents who said they know one of the three sites, as follows: 8.4% of respondents know “Portal Brasil”, 6.5% know Planalto Palace, and only 4.7% know “Blog do Planalto”. However, it should be noted that not all PBM respondents said they use the Internet (CERVI, 2015). Disregarding the cases in which the question was not applied because the participant is not an Internet user, the percentage increases to 18%, 14.4% and 10.5% for “Portal Brasil”; Planalto Palace and “Blog do Planalto”.

Table 6 Knowledge of news portals by Brazilians 

Resposta Portal Brasil Site Palácio do Planalto Blog do Planalto
N % N % N %
Yes 1.534 8,4 1.188 6,5 865 4,7
No 6.712 36,7 7.055 38,5 7.381 40,3
Does not apply 9.435 51,5 9.435 51,5 9.435 51,5
Don’t know 431 2,4 432 2,4 440 2,4
Didn’t reply 200 1,1 202 1,1 191 1,0
Total 18.312 100 18.312 100 18.312 100
Question: Do you know, even if you only listen (Portal Brasil, Palácio do Planalto, Blog do Planalto)?

Source: PBM-2015.

Two important pieces of information from the research deserve to be emphasized here: the first one is the lack of knowledge of Federal Government websites by Brazilians, which is below the knowledge of content in conventional media. The second one is that, among the three portals, “Portal Brasil”, which encompasses institutional content of the Federal Government of Brazil, is the best known. The knowledge of government websites demonstrated through spontaneous answers is another data from the PBM-2015 that reinforces the information that the public knows more about the institutional online spaces of the government than those aimed at promoting the President of the Republic. Table 7 summarizes the spontaneous answers, regarding the first option, to the question about what Federal Government website the respondent knew. This Table shows the results in descending order of citation. In addition to the number of citations in the first place, there is a percentage for all the respondents and the percentage valid, only for those who cited some website of the Federal Government.

Table 7 Federal Government websites cited in spontaneous answers 

Website N % total % valid
MEC (Ministry of Education) 931 5,1 27,4
“Fome Zero” 532 2,9 15,6
Receita Federal (Internal Revenue Service) 513 2,8 15,1
Previdência Social (Social Security) 245 1,3 7,21
Petrobrás 176 1,0 5,2
PAC (Brazil’s Growth Acceleration Program) 134 0,7 3,9
“Blog do Planalto” 109 0,6 3,2
Brazilian Government 108 0,6 3,2
Portal da Saúde (Health Portal) 97 0,5 2,8
Portal da Transparência (Transparency Portal) 96 0,5 2,8
Portal Brasil 84 0,5 2,4
Public domain 83 0,5 2,4
Public server portal 70 0,4 2,0
Electronic Government 60 0,3 1,7
Planalto Palace 22 0,1 0,6
“Bolsa Família” 8 0,0 0,2
Caixa Econômica Federal (Federal Bank) 8 0,0 0,2
Others 120 0,6 3,3
Don’t know any 4.547 24,8 100,0
Does not apply 9.435 51,5
Don’t know reply 492 2,7
Didn’t reply 442 2,4
Total 18.312 100,0
Question: Which Federal Government sites do you know about? (Spontaneous - 1st place).

Source: PBM-2015.

The first relevant piece of information is that 24.8% of the total sample said they did not know any website of the Federal Government. Disregarding the cases in which the question is inapplicable, the percentage of respondents who reported accessing the Internet, but did not know any website of the Federal Government reaches 51.2%. That is, in 2015, half of the Internet users in Brazil spontaneously stated to know no website of the Federal Government. For those who claimed to know some website, MEC (Ministry of Education) was the most cited website, followed by the portals “Fome Zero”22 (Zero Hunger), Federal Revenue and Social Security – websites for access to specific services or for providing information on specific public policies.

In short, there is a political-state reason for the production and dissemination of government content: the interests of the public. There is also a political-electoral motivation for the dissemination of content about the rulers: the interest in linking the achievements of the governments with those who hold public office. This is what justifies the investment of public resources in large communication structures that grow as the complexity of the content dissemination system increases.

Although in the last decades, the Brazilian Federal Government has significantly invested in content production, when we analyze the specific interests of the public, we realize that the expected results are not always achieved. By distinguishing the media that predominantly publicize actions of the president from those that broadcast cultural content, the government gave the public the option to choose the content they will consume. The fact is that the media and institutional content, especially on digital platforms, are more accessed and better known than the media that deal directly with the Executive’s agenda or than those in which the president communicates directly with the audience.

In view of these data obtained by the PBM-2015, we are interested to verify how communication strategies of the Federal Government were developed in 2016 after the scenario described by the research and in which there was the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, resulting in new Presidency of the Republic. Thus, the second part of the empirical analysis aimed to compare the expenses of the Dilma and Temer governments with the EBC and SECOM in 2016.

Types of communication policies at the end of Dilma government and beginning of Temer government

For the execution of all services, which include the production of informative, cultural and governmental content, EBC works in two programs foreseen in the budget of the Union23. One for the president’s image management, called “Management and Maintenance Program of the Presidency of the Republic”24, in which the EBC’s actions are directly linked to SECOM, and another called “Communications for Development, Inclusion and Democracy”25, in which EBC performs the actions of Strengthening the Public System of Broadcast and Communication; Production of Informative, Cultural and Educational Content; and Implementation of the Operator System of the National Network Digital Public TV. For each of these actions, there are other specific programs26. SECOM, in addition to demanding EBC productions, manages the contracting of advertising agencies for the production and publicizing of content. As each of these expenses is calculated individually in the Transparency Portal, it is possible to compare the investments in the actions to identify the preferences of each president in 2016.

The first methodological decision to compare the types of communication policies of the Dilma and Temer governments, based on expenses with different rubrics (items), was to create an indicator that would allow us to make a comparison between the months, since the absolute values are not the most appropriate, due to the variation of total expenses for each month or period of the year. We calculate an indicator that is the proportion of expenses in relation to the total spent by the direct administration in the month and we named it as “reference value”. The reference represents how much was spent on each communication item analyzed here for each R$1,000 registered for direct expenses in the month. In all, there is information for seven different items of expenses, five of them in SECOM and two in EBC. Combined, they are able to indicate the proportion of expenses for the production of public communication, governmental communication, and expenses with the private communication system.

The items in SECOM are divided into two sets. The first regarding the type of expense, identified as payment for the production of pieces and advertising content (prod.) or as payment for broadcasting content in the media (broad.). Within the expenses for broadcasting, it is still possible to identify in what type of media the investment was made. Here, we add three main types: printed (print.), Internet (inter.) and traditional electronic media (radio or TV).

Within the set of expenses ordered by the EBC, two items are of interest here: those related to the Management and Maintenance Program of the Presidency of the Republic (presid.) and to the Communication Program for Development, Inclusion, and Democracy (democ.). The reference values per month in 2016 and for each of the items are shown in Table 8. This Table also indicates the mean of the five months with expenses ordered by Dilma Rousseff and the mean of the remaining months, under the responsibility of Temer27.

At the end of Table 8, there is the subtraction of the monthly mean of the reference value in the Dilma government from the mean in Temer government. Negative results indicate that Dilma spent, on average, less than Temer in that item in 2016. Positive values indicate the opposite. In addition, there are also the coefficients and statistic (p-value) of significance level for the t-test of mean differences.

Table 8 Monthly Reference Values per item of expense in communication 

Presid. Month of 2016 SECOM EBC
Prod. Broad. Print. Inter. Rad.TV Democ. Presid.
Dilma 1 0,010 0,298 0,043 0,084 0,171 0,468 0,226
2 0,134 0,388 0,036 0,072 0,279 0,300 0,220
3 0,051 0,224 0,040 0,021 0,163 0,349 0,294
4 0,075 0,420 0,061 0,100 0,258 0,574 0,325
5 0,040 0,511 0,040 0,102 0,368 0,372 0,274
Dilma mean (1) 0,062 0,368 0,044 0,076 0,248 0,413 0,268
Temer 6 0,105 0,933 0,256 0,093 0,584 0,395 0,309
7 0,047 0,546 0,074 0,022 0,450 0,324 0,159
8 0,045 0,864 0,247 0,208 0,409 0,350 0,186
9 0,059 0,816 0,194 0,161 0,461 0,643 0,179
10 0,077 0,588 0,161 0,092 0,334 1,035 0,565
11 0,129 0,990 0,221 0,178 0,591 1,068 0,216
12 0,031 0,401 0,110 0,052 0,239 0,673 0,123
Temer mean (2) 0,070 0,734 0,180 0,115 0,438 0,641 0,248
Difference of Means (1-2) -0,008 -0,366 -0,136 -0,039 -0,190 -0,228 0,020
T test (p-value) -0,349 (0,734) -3,362 (0,007)** -4,305 (0,002)** -1,175 (0,267) -2,908 (0,016)* -1,551 (0,152) 0,279 (0,786)

Source: authors, from

The comparisons of the reference values of the items in the Table above allow us to identify the type of policies prevailing in each of the governments, by analyzing the discussion presented at the beginning of this study. More expenses in production and broadcast with SECOM, compared to those with the EBC, indicate a communication policy more focused on the commercial system since there are contracting agencies and the purchase of media spaces in the private system for transmission. In addition, the distribution of broadcast resources between the different media allows us to identify where each government invested more resources, whether in printed, traditional electronic or commercial Internet. In the EBC items, the expenses with the maintenance of the Presidency of the Republic indicate a type of government that invests more in governmental political advertising by state media, whereas the expenses with Development, Inclusion, and Democratization refer to the production of cultural contents from the state media.

In most cases, the different means between Dilma and Temer governments show negative results, pointing out that Temer invested more in communication than the previous government. This occurs for almost all the items, except for expenses with the Maintenance Program of the Presidency of the Republic through EBC, where the difference is positive. That is, Dilma invested more in this program than Temer did. However, the difference in the reference value is very small (0.020) and is not statistically significant.

In fact, only three items were significantly different. All of them are related to the increased expenses in broadcasting political content in commercial media, in Temer government, which had a mean (0.734) twice the mean of observed in Dilma government (0.366). Thus, the different means in the reference value in broadcasting with SECOM is -0.366, with a t-coefficient of -3.362 and p-value of 0.007. This indicates that the resources invested more in broadcasting content in the commercial system in the first seven months of Temer government are significantly different in comparison with the last five months of the Dilma government.

Regarding the items of expenses in broadcasting with SECOM, expenses with printed media had the most significant differences, with t-statistics of -4.305 and p-value of 0.002, followed by the differences of the expenses with Radio/TV, with t-statistics of -2.908 and p-value of 0.016. Expenses with broadcasts on the Internet had no significant differences between the two periods analyzed here.

In summary, it is not possible to affirm, from the general means of expenses with EBC, that there was a significant change between the Dilma and Temer governments regarding the communication production policies. The only notable differences are in the expenses with the transmission of content, especially with printed and Radio/TV media, which increased in the Temer government in comparison with the reference values of Dilma government. With regard to the production of content through SECOM, it is also impossible to indicate significant differences from Table 8.

Discussion and final considerations

With a large structure in EBC, the Brazilian Federal Government has a set of means that make possible the production of different contents for state media, editorially independent of the Executive, as the governmental media in SECOM. It is a strategy to make it possible to offer official content and to have alternative channels for broadcasting productions that have no space in commercial media. However, the influence of these media is, firstly, a management choice. The government can assume a more passive communication policy, of an official character, with low production of governmental and cultural content, but with more offer of financing of the private communication system, through subsidies and announcements of the direct administration or of federal-state companies. This is the strategy that spends much money. The opposite, in which it would behave in an active way through the wide production of cultural content for citizenship, to the detriment of the financing of the commercial system via political advertising, would characterize a strategy of more content. This, considering the three ideal types proposed in the first part of this study, which differ in the amount of different content – cultural, governmental and political/commercial content – and in the distribution of resources in the area.

The use of the volume and type of resources expended by the governments in different communication strategies proved to be useful to classify last months of the Dilma government and the first ones of the Temer government based on the typology proposed at the beginning of this article. Because of the complexity of the state communication system – which has media and specific programs for the dissemination of government acts, as well as for stimulating the dissemination of cultural content, besides the existence of a Department for the Presidency Communication to establish the institutional relationship with the commercial communication system – it is possible to characterize the strategies of the rulers.

Regarding the use of the EBC for democratization and implementation of the public communication system and for the maintenance program of the Presidency of the Republic, the results obtained in the third part of this study indicated that there were no significant differences between the two governments. The main differences were related to the volume of resources spent with SECOM, especially for broadcasting content in the commercial communication system. In 2016, the Temer government invested significantly more money in the transmission of government political advertising than Dilma.

As the difference is in the broadcast and not in the production, in which the two presidents are close, it is possible to conclude that the Temer government used the same volume of production of pieces, but with more transmission of content in private broadcasters. In addition, regarding the transmission item, the highest differences in media investments were in printed and radio and TV media. Investments in transmission on the Internet were close in the two governments analyzed here. That is, the Temer government invested more in the commercial communications system than its predecessor, but it mainly invested more in traditional media (newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations).

In governments of percentage differences in reference values, in the Temer government, there was an increase of about 100% in the average expenses with the transmission in SECOM. The printed media had an increase of 350%, radio and TV of 90% and the Internet of 60%. It is clear that Temer changed the communication strategy, investing more in political/commercial content and becoming similar to the ideal type of “pro-market passive government”, considering “market” as an increasingly limited set of communication companies that receive publicity money. The Dilma government were farther from the market, but not so close to society. The differences in reference values regarding the democratization item – a rubric found in SECOM’s accountability system – indicate that Dilma invested twice as much in democratization as in maintaining the presidency, whereas Temer invested three times more in democratization than in maintaining the presidency. This result, which at first seems counterintuitive, actually indicates that the Dilma government needs to produce more government content precisely because of the reduced investment in transmission in the commercial system. We cannot speculate on what came before: the Dilma government stopped investing in transmission and then the media reduced the coverage of government acts or vice versa. The fact is that, without using the commercial system, Dilma had to use the state system to publicize the acts of government, characterizing her government as an “active government.”

From the point of view of communicative strategy, the Dilma government adopted a valid option. However, this does not guarantee success. To be successful, the public would have to know, access and trust the programs and content disseminated by the state system. This is not what is shown in the national opinion poll (PBM-2015) conducted by the government itself. The percentages of knowledge and trust in governmental content are low, including for that transmitted on the Internet. That is, to be an active government in governments of communication policies, it is necessary that state media can, at least, compete for the public’s audience with the commercial system. Otherwise, the government will certainly be “isolated”.

1In the Temer government, the SECOM is now called the “Special Department for Social Communication”, linked to the Ministry of the General Department of the Presidency of the Republic.

2Available at: Accessed on: 18 jun. 2019.

4In addition, 2016 is the first year of the Pluriannual Plan in force (2016-2019). This important because Brazil adopts the budget program, a model focused on the objectives and achievements intended by governments to define their planning and specific actions of their institutions and entities (GIACOMONI, 2010), such as the programs in which the EBC operates. It is within this larger plan that the annual budget programs are defined.

5For more information on the history of public TVs in Brazil and implementation of the EBC, see Diniz (2013).

7Information about the EBC, such as the description of its actions, details and products of its vehicles, is available at: Accessed on: 1 mar. 2017.

8It is emphasized that the separation between what is government policy and what is presidential action is a legal requirement in Brazil.

9In October 2014, a company contracted by the SECOM through public bidding applied 18,312 interviews in a representative sample of the 27 Federative Units of the country. The questionnaire was the result of the discussions held in a working group formed by the SECOM employees and researchers in the Public Opinion area of different Brazilian universities. The results were publicized in early 2015.

10In English, “The Voice of Brazil”.

11Flexibility in accordance with Law No. 13,444 (BRASIL, 2018), sanctioned by Temer on April 2018.

12In the same PBM-2015 research, radio was cited as the second most used medium of communication by the interviewees; television was the first. A total of 29.3% of respondents said they listened to radio every day and 53.6% listened to it at least once a week.

13For example, by creating channels for sending information about the Government, such as via WhatsApp. Available at: Accessed on: 18 jun. 2019.

14Currently, in the Bolsonaro Government, with the name of “TV Brasil Gov” in the online social networks.

15Available at: Accessed on: 18 jun. 2019.

16Available at: Accessed on: 18 jun. 2019.

17Previously was “@TVNBR”, now, in the Bolsonaro Government, is “@TVBrasil”. Available at: Accessed on: 18 jun. 2019.

18As cultural content in the public communication through the State, we share the discussion presented by Ramos (2000), according to Mota and Silva (1978), which explain it is about the apprehension and responsibility of dissemination and promotion of popular culture and Brazilian realities, especially of the classes and cultural expressions subjugated and under-represented in the private means of communication.

19Online social networks are social media that make possible the publication of content (public, private, political, market, government, etc.) and the relationship between profiles linked in these environments. They are essentially characterized by interaction and have been explored by people and institutions. In format, they appear as sites or apps for mobile devices. As contemporary examples: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram. About the profiles of the Federal Government, see: Accessed on: 18 jun. 2019.

20Available at: Accessed on: 13 mar. 2017.

21Available at: Accessed on: 20 mar. 2017.

22In the old address, the portal gathers information about the homonymous program of the Lula and Dilma governments. He came out of the air in the Temer government.

23The EBC also acts in a third program, focused on special operations to comply with judicial decisions, with actions in the scope of Labor Justice. Available at: Accessed on: 12 mar. 2017.

27As the year was not divided in half, the sums would always give higher values for Temer. For this reason, we will always use the monthly means of the two presidents for the comparisons that will follow.


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Received: June 29, 2017; Accepted: July 17, 2019

Emerson Urizzi Cervi

Associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the Federal University of Paraná, Brazil, where also he teaches in the postgraduate courses in Political Science and Political Communication. PhD in Political Science from the Institute of Social and Political Studies of the State University of Rio de Janeiro (IESP/UERJ). Conducted postdoctoral research in Political Parties and Elections from FLACSO-ES and University of Salamanca with CAPES scholarship (2015-2016). He is coordinator of CPOP, research group in Political Communication and Public Opinion, with researches and publications about electoral studies, political parties, electoral campaigns financing, electoral propaganda, journalism, public opinion and research methodology. E-mail:

Fernanda Cavassana de Carvalho

PhD candidate in Political Science from Federal University of Paraná, Brazil. Assistant professor in the Department of Journalism at the State University of Ponta Grossa. Researcher at CPOP, research group in Political Communication and Public Opinion. Her main line of research is internet and politics, media and elections, journalism; political communication and public opinion. E-mail:

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