It is still fashionable to regard Brazil as one of the most important of the challenger economies, despite its seemingly endless rollercoaster performance. And when, in 2002, the country elected Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva its first socialist president in four decades, there were those who predicted even greater instability ahead.
But the reverse has been true. Although the minimum wage has been increased, there have been attempts to address the budget deficit, exports have been growing vigorously (albeit from a relatively low base) and the economy has bounced back from the sort of minor shocks that might have plunged it into crisis a decade ago.
As the country entered election year, his Liberal Party opponents began buying serious amounts of TV airtime to hammer home their assertion that Lula da Silva and the economy could have done even better - but he's proving an elusive target.
Because he also seems to have survived a political corruption scandal that whipped up the Brazilian news media into a frenzy over the summer of 2005. In many ways, the affair has merely shown up the inadequacies of the Brazilian press. Newspapers were granted western-style freedoms from censorship only two decades ago and, when a big political storm brews, they don't just report the mudslinging but actively contribute to it instead of trying to get to the facts.
On the other hand, this sort of feeding frenzy does not hurt readership, although it is true that Brazil's media landscape is absolutely dominated by television. And in this medium, the country has given the world a whole genre: the histrionic and hilariously melodramatic soap opera.
Brazilian soap is synonymous with Globo, the country's largest broadcaster and programme-maker, which claims to export more serial drama to more countries than any other television company in the world. And Globo is absolutely dominant in its domestic market, with half the audience and three-quarters of the airtime market.
That doesn't guarantee prosperity, however. Following ill-fated cable investments in the 90s and currency instabilities that made it impossible to service its dollar debts, Globo defaulted in 2002. Only last May did it finally succeed in restructuring a $1.3 billion refinance package.
No wonder foreign media owners, despite liberalised laws allowing them to do so, seem reluctant to enter this market.
ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1= Reais2.2. *Estimated Total TV News- Maga- Radio Outdoor Online papers zines 1994 3,486 1,983 905 295 149 154 0 1995 4,965 2,721 1,408 454 221 161 0 1996 5,887 3,472 1,483 503 240 190 0 1997 6,616 3,998 1,550 591 264 214 0 1998 6,417 3,832 1,444 603 258 281 0 1999 4,295 2,468 975 429 206 217 0 2000 5,365 3,105 1,154 566 263 278 0 2001 3,968 2,334 844 415 189 185 0 2002 3,313 2,014 664 314 152 168 0 2003 3,680 2,237 664 348 166 210 55 2004 4,653 2,941 796 400 207 232 77 2005 6,579 4,235 1,075 580 277 309 103 2006* 7,302 4,710 1,183 650 299 336 124 2007* 8,325 5,378 1,340 749 333 383 142 2008* 9,324 6,023 1,492 839 364 429 177 Adspend notes 1) Before discounts. 2) Includes agency commission (15%). 3) Excludes classified. 4) Includes production costs (15%) FACTFILE Highest circulating titles - Newspaper: Folha de Sao Paulo (daily, 308,000 copies) - Business magazine: Veja (weekly, 1,115,000 copies) - Consumer magazine: Epoca (weekly, 428,000 copies) Top TV shows - Most watched TV programme (2004): Novella III - Best new TV format: Anything on TV da Gente, Brazil's first wholly ethnic station Major measurement tools - Circulation Instituto Verificador de Circulacao (IVC) audits about half of the daily press - Readership: Ipsos-Marplan Pesquisas - TV viewing: IBOPE Main media owners - Newspapers: Estado de Sao Paulo - Magazines: Grupo Abril - Television: Globo
Media topic du jour: Was the launch of TV da Gente, Brazil's first black television station, really such a good idea?
Reigning media guru and why: Luis Frias, the president of Grupo Folha, a rapidly expanding publishing company that is also driving broadband growth.
Media mogul to be seen dining with: Ronaldo Maiorana, the proprietor of Jornal O Liberal, just to show how hard you are. Last year, Maiorana attacked a journalist in a busy restaurant. Brazilian media is not for pussies.
Car to drive Mercedes: Nova Classe A.
Phone to carry: Nokia 7610.
Whatever you do, don't say: Isn't obsessive body-building just a little bit gay?