I am a vintage TV set collector from Brazil, and I am
sending to you some information about the early days of TV in Brazil,
which was the first country to have TV in the Southern Hemisphere, and, I
believe was also the first country in the Southern Hemisphere to manufacture
TV sets. Attached are pictures of the early days of Brazilian television
as well as pictures of the early TV sets made here and the factory that
In the second half of the 1940's, many wealthy, (and
others not so wealthy, but technically skilled), people made some kind of
effort to bring television to Brazil. The honor finally went to one of
the most controversial figures in Brazilian history, Mr. Assis
Chateaubriand, a very powerful media tycoon in Brazil from the mid 20's
to the late 60's. In the late 40's his empire had 34 newspapers in
different cities, 36 radio stations and the most important Brazilian
national magazine. He decided that he wanted to own a TV station in 1944,
when he visited the US for the first time. He visited the RCA facilities
in New York, a special guest of David Sarnoff himself, since he was
spending large amounts of money on buying radio broadcast equipment for
his stations. He was absolutely thrilled by the television experiments he
saw at RCA, and immediately decided that, as soon as the war was over, he
wanted to buy a TV station. The reaction of David Sarnoff was very
curious. He was not at all enthusiastic to Mr. Chateaubriand plans.
Sarnoff said that it was very early to think of bringing TV to Brazil,
and that Mr. Chateaubriand would do better by strengthening his radio
network. It seems that Mr. Sarnoff was very eager to sell radio
broadcasting gear and helping on the formation of a large radio network
to cover the whole of South America. But he didn't knew Mr.
Chateaubriand, who was a very headstrong man, that would never stop until
things were done his way. So, Sarnoff was finally convinced to sell not
only one, but two TV stations, one for the city of Sao Paulo ( the
economic heart of Brazil ), and other for the city of Rio de Janeiro,
which was the capital of Brazil at that time.
In 1947, after spending three years raising money from
various sources (for the 5 million dollar investment of buying two
television stations was huge even for him), Mr. Chateaubriand placed the
order for the equipment. Them, something interesting happened. The people
of RCA asked Mr. Chateaubriand to pay, but to wait some time more for the
delivery of the equipment, to wait until they thought it was the best
time to build it. It cost a three year delay, but it also meant a
significant improvement in the broadcasting power of the station. By Mr.
Chateaubriand's own words "in 1947 the range of television signal was of
twenty miles. Today  a 5 kilowatt transmitter like the one we
have here reaches 80 miles". So, TV in Brazil should have started in
1947, but thanks to the foresight of the RCA Victor engineers it began
three years later with greater broadcast power.
Assis Chateaubriand, founder of the first Brazilian TV station, reading the innaugural speech
The RCA Victor equipment was bought for the Sao Paulo TV
station, while for Rio de Janeiro the equipment was built by General
Electric. For reasons unknown to me, the Rio station operated on the
European standard (625 lines, 25 frames, 7-mc channel, FM sound), while
the other station operated on the American 525 lines, 30 frames, 6-mc
channel, FM sound, standard. At that time other entrepreneurs were
seeking licenses for TV operation, but Mr. Chateaubriand's powerful
influence on the Brazilian government blocked them getting the license
before his TV went on the air - he wanted the honor to be the pioneer not
only in Brazil, but on the whole of Latin America. Here is a video of the inagural broacast.
Unfortunately for him, Mexican TV actually began
operating 18 days before his station. He was now the second in Latin
America, but still the first in the Southern Hemisphere. On September 18,
1950, his Sao Paulo TV station, PRF3 TV Tupi channel 3 was officially
inaugurated, with the blessings of the city's catholic bishop and the
transmission of a variety show at 9:00 pm. It was a one hour show, and
when it was over the station signed off, to resume transmissions only on
the following night. All TV sets in use in the city were imported from
the USA and a few from Phillips in Holland. TV sets were strategically
placed on some key locations, so the largest number of people could
witness the miracle of television. To this day, it is still reported that
only 200 families in the city had TV sets on that opening night, but this
claim is very difficult to prove. Interesting to note is that a major
event like that was widely boycotted by the press, with the newspapers
not mentioning it. Only Mr. Chateaubriand newspapers and his
magazine promoted the advent of television in Brazil.
At that point the station of Rio de Janeiro was still
doing test broadcasts.
It is reported that, by the end of 1950 there were 1000
to 2000 TV sets in Brazil, all of them in these two cities. On January
20, 1951, the Rio station, PRG3 TV Tupi channel 6 was officially
In 1955, six stations were on the air in Brazil: three in
Sao Paulo, two in Rio, and one in the state of Minas Gerais, but only in
1956 a precarious TV link was established between the states of Rio and
Sao Paulo. This was hailed by the press as a great achievement, for now
peoples in the two cities could see the same programs, but the fact is
that until the late 1960's this link was only used on special occasions.
In 1956 200,000 TV sets were in use in the country. Brazil had almost 70
million inhabitants. Estimated TV audience was one million people. 90% of
the programs were live staged, very little was filmed, and that's why
almost no recording of the first decade of Brazilian TV exists. One of
the highlights of TV at the end of that decade (when TV stations were now
operating on 10 of the 23 states of the nation ) was the transmission to
Rio, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais of the inaugural ceremonies of the new
capital city of Brazil, Brasilia, on April 21, 1960.
The new capital was located on the heart of the country,
and this three states on the southeast. A very complicated arrangement
was made for the live transmission: three DC3 planes equipped with TV
relay gear flew in circles, at different locations, one beaming the
signal to the other, and the last one beaming to the ground, and then the
ground station beaming to the local TV stations. It didn't work very
well, what people saw were very fuzzy images, if any. Better coverage of
the inauguration was shown hours later, when the video tapes arrived.
Real network TV in Brazil was only made possible in 1969,
after the government made a huge investment in satellite receiving
equipment and in microwave systems. The peculiar geography of the country
acted as an obstacle to network TV in the 50's and 60's.
Screen shots taken in the 1950's of live advertising on Brazilian TV
A lucky family watching the inaugural broadcast on September 18, 1950
on a GE set.
A crowd gathering in a grocery store to watch the
inaugural broadcast of Brazilian television
Building of the State Bank of Sao Paulo in 1950,
with the transmitting antenna of channel 3 on the top.
Former Hollywood star and international singer,
Mexican priest Jose de Guadalupe Mojica visiting the control room of
PRF3 TV on June/July of 1950.
Logo or test pattern of channel 3 of Sao Paulo
Studios of PRF3 TV of Sao Paulo in 1951
Studio crew of PRF3 TV rehearsing before the start
of the night's program's in 1950.
TV manufacturing in Brazil began in 1952. The first
factory was Invictus, which really started the electronic industry in
Brazil in 1943. Prior to 1943, all radio sets in use in Brazil were
imported. A few attempts of creating an electronic industry were made in
the 1930's but they all failed due to strategic errors and lack of
maturity of the market and the economy in general. In 1943 the industry
and the nation's economy were stronger, and that, combined with the
difficult of importing radio sets due to the war, and the Brazilian
government's need of a local industry to supply communication gear to the
armed forces, led to the rise and boom of a local electronics industry.
Located in the industrial state of Sao Paulo, Invictus was the first, and
during the 40's other industries appeared, and also some American and
European manufactures began producing in Brazil. The Invictus factory was
located in a small building, but in 1945 they were already producing
15.000 radios a month. As soon as television was introduced in Brazil,
they began to develop prototypes of TV sets. In early 1952 they released
their first TV set on the market, a 17 inch screen model, which had 50%
of parts and components made in Brazil. By 1953 the level of
"nationalization" of their TV sets was 75% .
After they begun production many other brands began the
production of TV sets in Brazil. It is estimated that 80 different
manufacturers of television sets were operating in Brazil in the 50's and
Unfortunately, most of this factories were small
businesses, with limited resources and small production. Almost all of
them (including the pioneer Invictus) were crushed after 1972, when color
TV began in Brazil. They simply were not ready for color TV. The
government favored the Japanese and European transnationals, who had the
know how to build color sets and the vast resources to build huge
factories for mass production of TVs. So, to this day, almost all of the
electronic industry here is in the hands of foreigners.
One final note: the first Brazilian TV stations that went
on the air in 1950 and 1951 are no longer on the air. They (and all other
TV stations from Mr. Chateaubriand's empire, 18 stations in total), faced
a tremendous financial crisis in the 70's due to decades of
mismanagement, and were declared bankrupt in 1980. Some of the radio
stations, many of the newspapers and the national magazine were also
declared bankrupt on that same occasion. The assets of the TV stations
were sold to other groups, and they are now part of other networks. Mr.
Chateaubriand didn't lived to see the downfall of his media empire: he
died in 1968, at the age of 75.
Benno Hirschfeld and Bernardo Kocubej, founders of the Invictus
Workers of the Invictus factory in front of the factory in 1953
Workers of Invictus packing a TV set in 1952 or 53
Late 1952 magazine ad promoting the above set, a
radio/TV combination, with a 21 inch screen.
first model of TV released by Invictus (early 1952), a 17 inch screen