During the long Salazar regime, the media operated under strict authoritarian control. The press was heavily censored, radio and television were government-controlled, and writers who violated the regime's guidelines were subject to severe sanctions. Even the lists of books that were requested by readers from the National Library in Lisbon were reviewed by secret police officials. Foreign magazines were similarly inspected before being put on the newsstands, sometimes with whole stories blotted out. The controls and censorship were stifling, leading to a pervasive and boring conformity in the media.
Under Caetano the rules were relaxed somewhat. Some novelists and essayists were able to publish critical and controversial works and get away with it. The press might speak out indirectly, with long analyses of elections in Chile or West Germany, for example, when everyone understood the real topic was the absence of free elections in Portugal. Only the weekly newspaper Expresso was strong enough to test the regime's tolerance with virtually every issue.
After the coup of April 25, 1974, the mass communications media underwent a radical transformation. One of the first acts of the revolutionary government was to abolish censorship. But as the revolution veered to the left, some portions of the media were seized by opponents of the views they expressed. Two of the most celebrated cases involved the closing of the Socialist Party newspaper República and the Roman Catholic Church's Rádio Renascença.
Government involvement in the media greatly increased when the banks were nationalized. Because most banks owned at least one newspaper, the state found itself the owner of many newspapers. With time, however, the government divested itself of these properties. By the beginning of the 1990s, no newspapers in Portugal were government owned, and the country had a completely free press. Although the state still operated radio and television broadcasting systems, the constitution states that they are to provide equal access to political parties, in or out of power. Large interest groups are also to have access to the state-owned electronic media.
At the beginning of the 1990s, about thirty newspapers were published daily in Portugal. They ranged from excellent newspapers like Público, an independent; and the historic Diário de Notícias, a newspaper of record; to sensationalistic crowd-pleasers such as Correio da Manhã. Público, founded in 1990, had sections dealing with both Lisbon and Porto and provided perhaps the most national news. Two excellent weekly newspapers filled the place taken in the United States by Time and Newsweek: Expresso, which had fought bravely for press freedom before the revolution; and O Independente, founded in 1988, which included pages enlivened by wicked satires of public figures. In addition to these publications, Portugal had a variety of specialized magazines.
In 1975 all commercial broadcasting facilities except those belonging to the Roman Catholic Church were nationalized. As of the beginning of the 1990s, however, hundreds of private radio stations were in operation, in addition to the large Roman Catholic radio system Rádio Renascença. The state broadcasting system was named Radiodifusão Portuguesa (RDP). Television service was furnished by the state system, Radiotelevisão Portuguesa (RTP), which broadcast on two channels. At the beginning of the 1990s, however, plans were being made to establish privately owned television in Portugal.
Portugal's film industry was very small. It produced mainly short films and documentaries for local television. Few fulllength films were made in Portugal, and those that were had not found a market abroad. However, a few Portuguese directors, the veteran Manoel de Oliveira and Paolo Rocha, for example, were highly esteemed by film cognoscenti the world over.
Book publishing was more prosperous, within the limits of the local market. Portugal had more than fifty publishing houses. They published books by Portuguese authors but also did a major business in translations of foreign authors. During the mid1970s , works by Marx, Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg, and other writers on the left dominated the bestseller lists. In the period since, Portuguese readers turned to a greater diversity of authors. The country's relatively high illiteracy rate of about 15 percent and the fact that most Portuguese read little made for a small market. As a result, books were expensive, and printings of even bestselling books were usually limited to 2,000 to 3,000 copies.
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