Under the military governments in the 1970s, Brazil's state-owned system of telecommunications became highly developed. The telephone system was modernized by means of massive government investments. Long-distance and international calls, which had been difficult to make and hear until then, were made accessible through direct dialing, at least to those who could afford the high price of telephone lines. The Postal and Telegraph Company (Empresa de Correios e Telégrafos--ECT) also became a model of efficiency. Some of the quality of telephone and postal services was lost in the 1980s and early 1990s.
The development of telecommunications in Brazil was originally part of a strategy of modernization with centralized control. However, the widespread flow of information contributed to democratization of society in the 1980s and 1990s, a process in which the uncensored press played a key role. Censorship imposed during the military regime was lifted during the Figueiredo administration. The press is owned by private enterprises, none of which can be owned or controlled by foreigners; it includes dozens of daily newspapers, several weekly magazines, and a myriad of other periodical publications.
Radio and television stations are licensed to private businesses owned by Brazilians. There are hundreds of radio stations all over the country. Television became widespread in the 1970s, with several national networks and numerous local stations in all states. Television sets are common even in low-income households. Soap operas (telenovelas ) are widely watched and are a common topic of conversation. It is a sign of their high technical quality that these programs have been sold to countries all over the world. The news programs often include editorial comment. In the authoritarian period, this expression of opinion, sometimes in subtle ways, tended to support government. In the 1990s, it has contributed to clearer notions of good government and citizens' rights among strata that had not developed political consciousness, but it may also have contributed to disillusionment.
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