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30 Jun 2006 00:00
Radio Marco Zero is a tiny radio station in Amapa, one of Brazil’s remotest Amazon states. Yet its few thousand listeners in the state capital, Macapa, have for the past month been able to hear exclusive hourly updates about the Brazilian national team.
“In the 254 years since Macapa was founded, no one has ever had the chance to come to a World Cup,’’ says Tarciso Franco, one of the station’s two journalists in Germany.
The pair have become well known among the Brazilian press for their branded “Amapa at the Cup’’ outfits, and their hick, star-struck ways.
Radio Marco Zero is one of the smallest and most out-of-the-way members of the Brazilian press pack—which is, almost certainly, the largest media contingent at the World Cup. Nearly 500 Brazilian journalists were accredited at the team’s training camp in Switzerland. In contrast, only a handful of British press showed up for England’s preparatory spell in Portugal.
Like dozens—if not hundreds—of Brazilian radio stations “covering’’ the football in Germany, Marco Zero does not have the rights to transmit World Cup games. They might as well be fans since they have no better access: all their bulletins are sent from outside the stadiums.
Inside, on the other hand, 24 separate Brazilian radio stations bought the rights to broadcast the matches live—which gives an impressive echo of “goooooooaaaal’’ each time Brazil scores.
Radio was the medium that grew together with football when Brazil became the best in the world, in the 1950s and 1960s. Even though most Brazilians watch the World Cup on TV, radio journalists still dominate the official press entourage. When the Brazilian players walk through the “mixed-zone’’ area after games where the media are lined up against a barrier hoping to ask questions, it is always the scrum of radio journalists who get the answers first.
“We are used to dealing with players like this since in Brazil we can stand on the touchline at games and get them as soon as they come off,’’ says Pedro Ernesto Denardin, of RBS radio from Porto Alegre. “Radio still has lots of penetration in Brazil—I’d say that 20% of our listeners are also watching TV, with a battery-powered radio clasped to their ear. The radio narration is much more exciting—and it comes about a third of a second ahead, because of the TV delay.’‘
Brazil is the second-most populous country in the World Cup—after the United States, which does not really count since football is not the national sport—so it might be expected that its legion of journalists is the most numerous. Yet the volume is a result of other factors too. The press is regionalised and each city wants representation. When about to interview a player, a radio journalist will often stick his microphone in the way and say something like: “Hey Robinho, can you say hello to listeners in Caruaru?’‘
Brazil measures its history through World Cups and there is an almost unquenchable thirst for information about the national team. Training sessions are covered in minute detail, with live coverage of stretching exercises and jogging round the pitch. The Internet has meant that in this World Cup much more information circulates much faster than ever before.
The Brazilian Football Confederation posts regular updates from the team hotel saying who is playing table tennis, who is on the football video game and what the scores are.
While the Brazilian press pack has grown, another group has become less numerous. Fifa’s new way of organising the media-selection process has meant that most accredited members are indeed journalists. Previously, media organisations used to give some of their allocation to some of their main sponsors. Veteran World Cup reporters remember sitting in the press zone next to middle-aged businessmen dressed in full Brazil kit.—Â
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