The following is an overview of the arrival of various communications technologies in Puerto Rico, as well as the development of the mass media, its organizations, and its textual and discursive production. The history of Puerto Rican media culture is structured in the following sub-topics: the printing press and journalism and the civilizing impulse in the 19th century; the communications industries of the 20th century; El Mundo and El Imparcial; the emergence of the media and communications industries; radio and advertising, 1920-1940; narratives and the media industry between 1930 and 1940; television and Commonwealth of Puerto Rico government developmentalism, 1950-1960; televisions narratives, 1950-1960; mass mediation, 1970-1990; and multimedia convergence, 1990s into the 21st century.
Printing Presses: 19th century
In 2000, in a meticulous study published in Ambitos, a Spanish International Communications Journal, Miguel B. Márquez, professor at the University of Seville, used existing historical documents to propose that the first Puerto Rican newspaper, La Gaceta, began to be published on May 3, 1806, at the Captaincy General of the island. As an official informative organ of the government, it continued to be published after the United States invasion under the name of La Gaceta de Puerto Rico until September 1902, the United States eagle having substituted the Spanish coat of arms. Yet, it is somewhat more difficult to establish the date of the arrival of printing presses on the island. The literature of the 19th century (Alejandro Tapia y Rivera and Cayetano Coll y Toste) and the researcher Miguel B. Márquez are in agreement that presses arrived during the governorship of Toribio Montes, 1805 to 1806, and that the first printer was Juan Jacinto Rodríguez Calderón, and not a Frenchman by the name of Delarue, as affirmed by Eduardo Neumann (Benefactores y Hombres Notables de Puerto Rico, 1896), Salvador Brau (Historia de Puerto Rico, 1904), and Paul G. Miller (Historia de Puerto Rico, 1922).
To a large measure, the publication of La Gaceta provided the government with the means to centralize official information:
“The Gaceta of this City is a public sheet that this central government can use to communicate and announce matters of interest to the entire Island, as well as to foster vaccination activities with the cooperation of the Districts where there is precious water and crops, vessels calling at the port that may be interested in exporting the crops and all merchandise that may be traded and exchanged, and what is no less important, to publish news on public and military matters… as was said in Bulletin No. 50 dated March 26 of the past year…” (Bulletin Number 85, Governor Toribio Montes, March 13,1807).
This concerted effort by the colonial authorities to centralize information, coupled with the twists and turns of Spanish politics, meant that publishing was to have a slow start on the island. It was not until 1814 that another two newspapers were published: Diario Económico de Puerto Rico, on February 28, and El Cigarrón, on May 1. Publications during the first half of the 19th century included El Investigador, 1820; the Diario Liberal y de Variedades de Puerto Rico, 1821; El Eco, Diario Noticioso de Puerto Rico, 1822; the Boletín Instructivo y Mercantil de Puerto Rico, 1839; and El Ramillete, a short-lived literary weekly in 1845.
Journalism and the Civilizing Impulse During the 19th century
The features of journalism in the second half of the 19th century in Puerto Rico were shaped in the first half of the century, and to a large degree, these features persisted in the Puerto Rican journalistic discourse of the 20th century. In the absence of major means of communication, journalism gradually developed narratives which, in the interest of a civilizing fervor proposed models of social welfare, prosperity, and civilization, as well as models of civil and political liberties. An official and conservative journalism developed, such as La Gaceta, and liberal journalism was able to persist in spite of the interrupted liberal project in Spain and the changing fortunes of the constitutionalists, as with El Investigador, the Diario Liberal y de Variedades and the Boletín Instructivo Mercantil, among others. Throughout the nineteenth century, these two kinds of journalism found expression in the five kinds of publications that existed on the island: official publications (La Gaceta, La Integridad Nacional, El Pabellón Español), political news (El Agente, La Revista de Puerto Rico, La Democracia, La Correspondencia), business news (LaBoletín Instructivo y Mercantil, Revista de Agricultura, Industria y Comercio), liberal satire (Don Severo Cantaclaro, La Abeja, El Buscapié), Masonic publications (El Delta, La Logia, El Mallete), literary publications (El Ramillete, El Palenque de la Juventud, El Amigo del Pueblo, El Campo), and religious publications (El Semanario Católico, El Peregrino, El Universo, El Boletín Eclesiástico), among many others.
With the exception of La Gaceta, as happened in other parts of Latin America during the 19th century, newspapers in Puerto Rico were founded under liberal patronage, when a person or family of the landowner, merchant or professional class used their financial resources to make editorial decisions in accordance with their economic and political ideas, and their way of voicing social concerns within the civilizing clamor of the time. In narrative terms, these newspapers reflect a kind of hybrid style of writing, a mixture of story-telling, articles, eye-witness reports, and journalism, whose purpose, in most cases, was to create exposés of political and social conditions.
While in the 19th century the printing press was the most important technology for the development of the first mass media on the island, at the close of the century other technologies that were to have a significant role in the development of mass culture had come to the fore. On August 29, 1846, the Boletín Instructivo y Mercantil published a note announcing the arrival of photography on the island. The first lithography shop, which had been started in October 1875 by Francisco Larroca and headed by a Catalan immigrant, Ricart, gained prominence.
The 20th century and the Communications Industry
At the arrival of the 20th century, the technologies that had existed since the 19th century —railroads, telegraph lines, the telephone, and electricity— were updated and their coverage was extended. Newspapers acquired new linotype machines that allowed them to increase their circulation. Cameras with moving images arrived along with the Spanish-American War, brought by photographers that landed with the American troops. The first motion pictures were shown under a big top tent, the Cine Pathé, which was set up in front of the Tapia Theater around 1909. In 1910, Manuel Portell and Miguel García set up another big top in Puerta de Tierra, the Tres Banderas movie theater. WKAQ radio started broadcasting in Puerto Rico on December 2, 1922. Joaquín Agusty Ramírez de Arellano said the first words in Spanish: “Esta es WKAQ, en San Juan, capital de Puerto Rico, la Isla del Encanto y donde se produce el mejor café.” [This is WKAQ, capital of Puerto Rico, the Island of Enchantment, where the best coffee is produced.]
Television began in 1954. Channel 2, WKAQ-Telemundo, and Channel 4, WAPA, began to transmit test signals early that year, and on March 28, 1954, Telemundo began its first regular programming. The cinema, radio, and television were the most important media in the development of mass culture in 20th century Puerto Rico.
At the close of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st century, the new technology of the Internet and the World Wide Web began to displace the earlier technologies. In 1988 the University of Puerto Rico became the first Internet provider on the island, for both the private and public sectors. In 1994, CaribeNet became the first private company in Puerto Rico to provide Internet and World Wide Web access.
El Mundo and El Imparcial
The island underwent an economic transformation with the arrival of the 20th century. During the first stage, from 1898 to 1939, the mercantile economy became a capitalist economy based on sugar cane operations and the tobacco, coffee, and needlework industries, owned by absentee US companies. Three of the newspapers that survived the transfer of sovereignty were the Boletín Mercantil, La Democracia and La Correspondencia. The communications media actively participated in the new economic processes, which gradually led to the creation of large-scale media companies as the 20th century progressed.
The newspapers that had been created under the initiative of professionals, merchants, and landowners during the 19th century started to falter. The end of World War I, saw the founding of two newspapers, El Imparcial (founded in 1918) and El Mundo (founded in 1919), which until 1973 were the newspapers with the largest circulation in Puerto Rico. A slow but steady professionalization of journalism in Puerto Rico was developing along with the telecommunications industry. Both newspapers consolidated their position at a time when a new class configuration arose in Puerto Rico following the economic crisis brought on by the Great Depression of 1929. Small landowners, professionals, intellectuals, and many others who had seen their social status and material base affected by the United States felt that their voices and interests were being represented in the space provided by these newspapers.
The two dailies developed during a period of economic growth for the island, starting in the 1940s, and with even more vigor in the 1950s. Both concerns, like the rest of the country, began to show signs of wear by the end of the 1960s. In the wake of the world-wide economic crisis of 1973, El Imparcial disappeared while El Mundo had begun to decline in 1972 after a seven-month strike. Years of financial, editorial, and labor troubles led to the paper’s closing on August 31, 1987.
El Imparcial had been given new life in 1933 under the leadership of Antonio Ayuso Valdivieso. Some years later it moved to its signature modern building at 450 Comercio Street in San Juan, where it was located until it closed in 1973. Angel Ramos and José Coll Vidal had been the owners of El Mundo since 1929, when they had bought it from Romualdo Real. In 1946, Angel Ramos bought Coll Vidal’s share in the newspaper, becoming sole owner. By 1954 Ramos headed the first large-scale media conglomerate in Puerto Rico: the El Mundo newspaper, WKAQ radio, and WAKQ television, Channel 2. Although Angel Ramos died in 1960, the El Mundo group continued to operate relatively intact until 1975.
These two new companies built an audience in a society with high literacy rates, 68.5 percent in 1940 and 74.4 percent in 1950, providing information on current affairs, advertising, and entertainment, while combining ideological, informative, and explanatory reporting. The tensions among the ideological, informative, and explanatory styles in the press deepened towards the late 1950s. In 1959, a weekly, Claridad (June, 1959) and a daily, The San Juan Star (November, 1959) began operations. As the 1960s progressed, tensions grew even further, and between 1968 and 1973 reached a boiling point, as the Operation Bootstrap model collapsed.
During the 1920s and 30s the radio industry slowly grew, coming into its own in the 1940s. Joaquín Agusty Ramírez de Arellano had started transmission at WKAQ Radio in 1922 as part of the innovative projects fostered by the telephone industry, sponsored by the company that the brothers Sosthenes and Herman Behn had founded in 1920, the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation. Following on the technological success of the first transmission, the ITT started an affiliate to handle radio operations, the Radio Corporation of Porto Rico and another to manage telephone operations, the Porto Rico Telephone Company.
Puerto Rico’s second radio station, WNEL, belonged to Juan Pizá, and was founded in San Juan on November 17, 1934. Julio M. Conesa started the third station, WPRP, in Ponce on May 30, 1936, which later became the property of the Voice of Puerto Rico, Inc., under Ramón Montaner. In 1937, the advertising industry entered into the radio field and established the fourth station on the island, WPRA-Mayagüez, owned by Andrés Cámara’s Puerto Rico Advertising Company. WPRA was started under the supervision of the engineer Rafael Pérez Perry. The second radio station in Ponce, WPAB, was founded in 1940, under the ownership of the Porto Rico American Broadcasting Corporation.
In 1923, Félix Muñiz Souffront founded the first advertising agency in Puerto Rico, the West Indies Advertising Company. Nineteen years later, in 1943, Muñiz Souffront and Enrique Abarca Sanfeliz started the fifth radio station in Puerto Rico, WIAC (like WPRA, the station’s call letters were the initials of the advertising agency). In 1947, José Ramón Quiñones founded WAPA Radio, the call letters of which were for the Asociación de Productores de Azúcar, the Sugar Producers Association.
Radio coverage during the 1930s and 40s, a period in which many economic development projects were in progress, reached a high point in 1948. While between 1922 and 1942 there had only been five stations covering San Juan, Ponce and Mayagüez. etBween 1943 and 1948 seventeen radio stations began operations, for a total of twenty-two, including Arecibo (WKBM, 1945, and WCMN, 1946), Caguas (WRIA, 1947), and Fajardo (WIBS, 1947).
By the end of the 1940s there was an established media industry on the island, an industry which brought the country-building project that culminated in the creation of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1952 into the space of the everyday lives of the masses. As in the rest of Latin America, the media industry brought with it a modernity interpreted as a parade of the creations of the advertising world, while providing the displaced rural population with mechanisms for integration into contemporary urban life.
The content industry gained increasing importance. In 1944, Samuel Badillo founded Publicidad Badillo, an advertising firm. In 1948, the government agency, the Industrial Development Company (PRICO), retained the Hamilton Wright advertising agency to promote the modernization project for the island. In the 1940s the government had retained the likes of Rafael Torres Mazzorana, Miguel Angel Santín, Tomás Blanco, and José I. de Diego y Padró to disseminate information on the various government projects through the mass media. Gustavo Agrait was the first director of information appointed by Luis Muñoz Marín in 1949.
During these country-building years, modern times were also being recorded on film. Rafael J. Colorado, Juan E. Viguié Cajas, and Rafael Ramos Cobián had produced the first motion pictures filmed in Puerto Rico. In 1949, the government created the Community Education Division (DIVEDCO), while at the same time large theaters were being built to show Hollywood productions. DIVEDCO attracted technicians, directors, actors, and writers, laying the groundwork for the development of a Puerto Rican national cinema. Writers such as Emilio Díaz Valcárcel, René Marqués, and Pedro Juan Soto were hired as scriptwriters. Many prominent Puerto Rican directors had their training at the DIVEDCO film unit, including Amílcar Tirado, Luis Maysonet, Angel F. Rivera, and Marcos Betancourt, among others.
Radio programs in the 1930s, 40s and 50s such as Los jíbaros de la radio, (the first Puerto Rican radio program, broadcast by WKAQ radio from December 5, 1932 until 1959), and Los embajadores del buen humor, (transmitted by radio from 1937, and later, beginning on July 4, 1954, by television), were comedy and political satire programs that were part of a cultural project, which had its origins in 19th century newspapers and periodicals such as El Buen Humor (1881), Don Severo Cantaclaro (1873-74), El Sastre de Campillo (1897), and La Víbora (1898), that had been given continuity in satirical publications like Punto y Coma, El carnaval, Florete, and many others during the 1920s and 30s. Between 1865 and the late 1940s there were some 124 publications devoted to political humor and satire.
On the other hand, radio comedy shows such as ¡Qué sirvienta!, El tremendo hotel, Esta es mi suegra, Torito & Co., La familia Pérez, Gloria y Miguel, La tremenda corte, and El colegio de la alegría brought with them a modernity imbued with the products of the advertising industry. Programs such as La novela Colgate, Radio Teatro Philipps, La novela Denia, Malta Dukesa y Kresto, La taberna India, and La taberna Corona, among others, provided the voices for the collective biographies of the sectors of the population that were being integrated into the development of the country. Torito & Company and El tremendo hotel, transmitted by WKAQ Radio during their noon programming, were the programs with the highest ratings.
The world of news also reached the public through the radio. The first radio news show was transmitted by WKAQ in 1934. The program was called La Correspondencia de Puerto Rico. In the 1950s, Radio El Mundo scheduled news programs such as Combas Guerra Informa, Trans Caribbean Informa, and El noticiero de la una. Although it would take a while for broadcast news to take hold, the newspapers of the times reported the coverage by WNEL of Carlos Gardel’s visit to the island in 1935, WAPA’s coverage of the fire at Jack’s Club in the Condado in 1948, and the WIAC coverage of the 1950 Nationalist revolt.
Television and Developmentalism of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, 1950-1960
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was organizing festivities for its second anniversary when at four o’clock in the afternoon on March 28, 1954, WKAQ Telemundo broadcast the first television signal to the island. It was a live television drama called El caso de la mujer asesinadita with a cast that included Mapy Cortés, María Judith Franco, Esteban de Pablos, Luis de Tejada, and Alicia Moreda. A few days earlier, on the first of March, a group of Puerto Ricans had attacked the United States House of Representatives. Television in Puerto Rico was getting its start amidst profound political tensions on the island, while the Cold War was in full swing.
More than any other company, the El Mundo group, through its media presence and cultural and political influence, was emblematic of the economic miracle of the policies of the 1950s. Between 1946 and 1954 Angel Ramos had built up the first media conglomerate in Puerto Rico. In 1946 he became sole proprietor of El Mundo and in 1947, he founded Radio El Mundo, WEMB. This station was soon to disappear, since on October 31, 1949 Ramos acquired WKAQ from the International Telephone and Telegraph Co., and during the same year he acquired WNEL. On October 10, 1951 the station stopped using the 1240kHz frequency and WKAQ Radio El Mundo began transmission on the 580kHz frequency, which had been used until then by WIAC. These changes and mergers in the radio industry stirred up discontent among many of the people working at the stations acquired by the El Mundo group. A few months after Ramos purchased WKAQ, the Newspaper and Radio Guild of Puerto Rico, founded and headed by the journalist Ismael Delgado González, called a strike against Radio El Mundo. This was to be the first of many labor disputes with the El Mundo companies.
Having consolidated the radio industry, Angel Ramos went on to develop a television station. Ramos hired Rafael Delgado Márquez to head the project. From 1942 until the time he was hired by Ramos in 1952, Delgado Márquez had been the chief Executive of the Puerto Rico Communications Authority. Channel 2, WKAQ, began test signals on January 28, 1954, but in spite of other testing, it was not until March 28 of that year that WKAQ Telemundo inaugurated commercial television in Puerto Rico.
Test signals for WAPA 5, Channel 4, began in March of 1954 and regularly scheduled programming began on May 1; WIPR, Channel 6, the first Latin American educational station began to air on January 1, 1958. Ponce WRIK, Channel 7, owned by Alfredo Ramírez de Arellano, began to transmit in that city on February 2, 1958. Finally, in 1960 the FCC granted Rafael Pérez Perry a license to operate WKBM, Channel 11, and in August the channel went on air.
In spite of the fact that the most important television channels in Puerto Rico had begun to air between 1954 and 1960, it would take some time for their programming to see the success radio had had during the 1950s. Many of the radio programs with the broadest audience crossed over to television, particularly comedy and variety shows. The programming during the first months of operations at Channel 2 was the following: at 4:30 p.m. La cocina Frigidaire, Carmen Lydia Fernández; at 5:00 p.m. El show de Pinito, a children’s program featuring Luis de Tejada, a clown known as Pinito; at 6:00 p.m. Telenoticias, anchored by Evelio Otero; at 6:30 p.m. El desfile deportivo; at 7:00 p.m. El show de Perry Como; at 7:30 p.m. La taberna India; at 8:00 p.m. Teatro Caribe notas; at 8:30 p.m. El pianista misterioso India; at 9:00 p.m. Coca-Cola busca estrellas, hosted by Mariano Artau; at 10:00 p.m. Noticiero de la noche; and at 10:30 p.m., wrestling or boxing. Channel 2 introduced a news program, Telenoticias, and Channel 4 had El Observador Kresto Denia.
The first Puerto Rican soap opera on television, Ante la ley, was first aired on August 22, 1955 on Channel 2, with a cast including Esther Sandoval, Mona Marti, Lucy Boscana, and Walter Buxó. Two hit programs were El derecho de nacer, featuring Helena Montalbán, Braulio Castillo, Mona Marti, Manuel Pérez Durán, Gilda Galán, and Sonia Noemí González and Entre monte y cielo, featuring Luz Odilia Font and Raúl Dávila. Much of the programming during those years consisted of programs dubbed by Angel Ramos’s company, Film and Dubbing, including Hopalong Cassidy, Superman and La ley del revólver (Wyatt Earp), among others.
Channel 11 was the last of the wide-area broadcast television channels when it began to air its signal in August of 1960. Rafael Pérez Perry’s WKBM, Channel 11, provided the space for the rupture between a popular culture that was tied to the rural and agrarian world and the youthful urban popular culture, which was based on new habits of consumption. By the mid-1950s rock and roll shows were being promoted on the island. In December 1956, the Escambron Beach Club had a show featuring singers in this new musical style. On September 20, 1957, Channel 4, WAPA, began to air a program called Teen Agers TV Club, a program that was broadcast every Friday for three years. In 1957, Telemundo, WKAQ, Channel 2 aired La piña de la juventud on Saturdays. The program that was to be emblematic for the youth of the 1960s, Teenager’s Matinee, went on the air in 1961 on Channel 11, WKBM, emceed by a young entrepreneur, Alfred D. Herger.
The media event that was built up around the visit to Puerto Rico of the Canadian-American singer Paul Anka is an example of the new tastes of urban youth. Unlike the visits of Carlos Gardel and Jorge Negrete, movie idols of the 1930s and 40s who arrived by ship, Paul Anka arrived at the new international airport at Isla Verde. Instead of touring the island in an automobile and singing in theaters, Anka only sang at the Caribe Hilton Hotel, visited a few radio stations in San Juan, and was the center of the first media event that exemplified these new habits of consumption. On January 5, 1961, Anka went to several radio stations with Alfred D. Herger where they were announcing that he would be signing autographs at 4 o’clock that afternoon at the Woolworth’s on Ponce de León Avenue in Santurce. The event was so massive that traffic was stopped along the avenue. As part of the promotional efforts, the signer was transported from the store by a helicopter that landed on the roof and carried him back to his hotel. The January 6 The San Juan Star reported that over three thousand adolescents had almost destroyed the Woolworth’s to see Paul Anka. All of this had been a highly-successful staged publicity event.
During the 1970s, mediatic space once again underwent large-scale changes, the most representative of which were the changes in the press. El Imparcial disappeared and El Mundo began to lose its hegemony in 1972, after a seven-month strike. The newspaper continued to have financial troubles, and it was not able to adapt its personnel and editorial policies as required by the new ways of media production. El Mundo closed operations on August 31, 1987.
Two newspapers came to the fore in Puerto Rico in the new mediatic space that was created in the 1970s, El Nuevo Día and El Vocero. By the 1980s they had established their editorial styles, and they currently have been able to adapt to changes in the industry during the first decade of the twenty-first century. El Nuevo Día started publishing in San Juan in May of 1970, El Vocero in April of 1974. Another important newspaper of the period, El Reportero was published between July 1980 and November 1987.
Several important events occurred in 1978. On January 16 WKAQ-AM began to transmit a 24-hour news format. On July 25 the events at Cerro Maravilla took place. That year, after four years without airing any local productions, Telemundo transmitted Cristina Bazán and, Channel 11, at the time Telecadena Pérez Perry, and its partners since 1970, the Venevisión de Venezuela affiliate in Puerto Rico (Venevisión de Puerto Rico), co-produced the soap operas La Historia de Laura Benson and Mi querida Sylvia. Channel 4 (WAPA) began to air Sabel on November 27, 1978.
In the 1980s, major Puerto Rican consortiums that owned television stations, the Angel Ramos Foundation (Channel 2) and Rafael Pérez Perry (Channel 11) left the industry, and the first US-based media groups began to arrive. In 1984, the Angel Ramos Foundation sold Telemundo to John Blair and Company. Two years later, in 1986, the Reliance Holding Group of New York bought John Blair and Company, the owners of WSCU, Channel 51 in Miami, and WKAQ, the Telemundo Network in Puerto Rico. With this acquisition, Reliance, owner of another six television stations in United States, created the Telemundo Network, the second Spanish-language network in that country. Also during the 1980s, WAPA-Television, Channel 4 (Televicentro de Puerto Rico) became the property of the Western Broadcasting Corporation, and later, of the Pegasus Corporation. Then, Rafael Pérez Perry’s heirs sold Telecadena, giving rise to Tele Once, Channel 11-WLII. At first, Tele Once belonged to Lorimar Pictures, at the time a subsidiary of NBC. Soap opera production in Puerto Rico during the 1980s operated within the scenario of these complex corporate changes.
Between January 1980 and November 1989, Telemundo produced 22 television serials. Channel 4 (WAPA) produced 17 between March 1980 and September 1990. Of these, three were filmed in Argentina, co-produced with Channel 11 in Buenos Aires: Cuando es mentira el amor, La cruz de papel, and Claudia Morán; another was filmed in Venezuela as a co-production with Venevision: Diana Carolina.
In 1986, the independent producer MECA, owned by actresses Angela Meyer and Camille Carrión, began to produce soap operas for Channel 11. MECA produced four mini-serials consisting of 40 twelve-minute chapters. Between 1987 and 1989, MECA, later called Productora Meyer de Jesús, produced for serials: La isla, Ave de paso, Yara prohibida, and La otra. MECA’s serials were written in Argentina by Jorge Cavanet.
The most successful soap opera, Tanairí, began to be aired on July 10, 1985. Although the story and the scripts came from a team that the producer Angel del Cerro had under contract in Venezuela, Telemundo hired Dean Zayas, a teacher at the University of Puerto Rico Drama Department, to ensure the historical accuracy of the story, since the drama was set in late 19th-century Puerto Rico.
In November 1989, Channel 2, Telemundo Network, concluded almost 30 years of local production of serial dramas at the final airing of Pacto de Amor. In 1988, the newly created Telemundo Network produced Angélica, mi vida. When Pacto de Amor finished in 1989, the company moved its production operations to Miami. The soap opera industry ceased production in September 1990, when Channel 4, Televicentro de Puerto Rico, ended its production of Aventurera.
It could be argued that to a great degree the production of serials in Puerto Rico disappeared because the industry could not adapt to the demands of transnationalization and the changes that occurred in the genre. The globalization of the Latin American soap opera industry meant that more than ever three imperatives —market, production, and narratives— were producing a constant restructuring of the form.
The new mediatic schemes that gained prominence in the 1980s transformed the traditional television genres. This evolution began to emerge in Puerto Rico in the late 1980s with two comedy programs: Sunshine’s Café and No te duermas, two talk shows:Ojeda sin límites and El show de Carmen Jovet; and two hybrid entertainment, variety, and game programs, Super Sábados and A Millón. A Millón was aired between 1986 and 1989 on Sunday afternoons by WAPA-Channel 4, which, with an audience of about 1.5 million, has been one of the most viewed programs in Puerto Rican television.
In the 1980s, seven television channels began to broadcast with a focus on programming that was segmented by news, religious, and educational issues or interests: WPRV-Channel 13, WSJU-Channel 18, WJSN-Channel2 4, WRWR-Channel 30, WMTJ-Channel 40, WECN-Channel 64, and WUJA-Channel 58.
Between 1990 and the end of the first decade of the 21st century, three important events have changed the technology of mass communications, the communications industries, and the narratives of communications. Communications technology has taken on a new life as part of the transformations brought by information and digital technology at the end of the 20th century, with the Internet being the most salient example. Communications industries, especially radio and television, have undergone changes in ownership, to a great degree due to the United States 1996 Telecommunications Act, which opened the way for deregulation and concentration of ownership. The new federal regulations allowed the telecommunications industries unfettered entry into the neoliberal and global trade system. Content, on the other hand, has also reflected the transformations that have occurred in the economic, political, and cultural spheres of today’s society.
A particular media event precipitated an interest in accessing the Internet in Puerto Rico. In January 1996, a news story was fabricated to report that a photograph of a nude young woman was circulating on the University of Puerto Rico network, a story that was picked up by the media, and there was a frenzy of coverage in all media. For months, the Internet girl was an important item on the media and public opinion agenda. A year after this incident, in 1997, a survey by the advertising agency Badillo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi showed Puerto Rico as the country with the highest Internet use in Latin America, with more than 210,000 Internet subscribers. Two years later, in 1998, the number of subscribers had increased by 43 percent, to an estimated 300,000. Puerto Rico had become connected to the Internet in 1988 through UPRnet, administered by the University of Puerto Rico. UPRnet was the first Internet access provider in Puerto Rico. In 1994, CaribeNet was the first private company in Puerto Rico to provide Internet services and access to the World Wide Web.
More than the arrival of the Internet on the island, the passage of Puerto Rico’s mass media into the 21st century has been marked by the hold on the Puerto Rican media space by three large media conglomerates, owners of the content industries with the largest circulation and coverage in Puerto Rico. The largest media conglomerate in terms of its economic, social, political, and cultural importance in Puerto Rico is Grupo Ferré Rangel, owner of El Nuevo Día, which in November of 1997 began to publish the newspaper Primera Hora. Both newspapers are plataforms for the convergence of the traditional press, the Internet, and mobile telephone communications. Grupo Ferré Rangel owns the newspapers El Nuevo Día, Primera Hora, El Nuevo Día Orlando (in Florida, this one cease operation in August, 2008), El Norte (a regional newspaper founded in Arecibo in 1987 and acquired in 1997 by the Grupo Ferré Rangel), El Horizonte (a regional newspaper in the Fajardo area); the commercial printing press Advanced Graphic Printing; the office complex City View Plaza; Virtual Inc. (Endi.com and Zonai.com); the marketing company El Día Directo; the waste collection, processing, and disposal company, Pronatura; and the mobile content distribution company, Ellow.
The other two conglomerates, the Spanish Broadcasting System and Univision, are involved in the radio and television industries. The Spanish Broadcasting System was founded in the United States in 1983. In Puerto Rico SBS owns the La Mega network, WMEG-FM in San Juan and WEGM-FM in Mayagüez; the Estéreo Tempo network, WIOA-FM in San Juan, WIOB-FM in Mayagüez, and WIOC-FM in Ponce; the La Z network, WZNT-FM in San Juan, WZMT-FM in Mayagüez, and WZET-FM in Ponce; the Reggaeton 94 network, WODA-FM in San Juan and WNOD-FM in Mayagüez; and the news network La Red, WCMA-FM in San Juan.
In 1986, the US Spanish Independent Network became Univision, beginning the transmision of its most successful program, Sábado Gigante that same year. Univision owns WLII Channel 11 and WSUR Channel 9 in Ponce, and WORA Channel 5 in Mayagüez, as well as WKAQ AM and FM. After fiteen years of ownership by the American entrepreneur A. Jerrold Perenchi, Televisa from Mexico, and Venevision fromn Venezuela, in March 2007, TPG Capital, L.P. and Thomas H. Lee Partners took over Univision. Other investors in this transaction were Madison Dearborn, Providence Equity, and the children’s programs producer, Haim Saban. The Univision Grupo includes the television, radio, music, and Internet companies Univision Network, TeleFutura, Galavision, Univisin Radio, Unvision Online, Univision Music, and Fonovisa.
In terms of narratives and images in these various communications media, as a result of the transformations in the sector, the boundaries between what up to the mid 1980s had been thought of as informative, educational, entertaining, real, or fictional have disappeared. All the genres have melded into narratives in which information, entertainment, theater, and advertising converge at the same level. This mediatic and narrational convergence and confluence has resulted in contemporary readers, spectators, and listeners being unable to differentiate between the narrative threads and images of the Web sites of El Nuevo Día, Primera Hora and their print editions and radio and television programs such as El Bayú de la mañana, Noticias Univisión, Telenoticias, SuperExclusivoPR, Noticentro al Amanecer, Noticentro a las 5:00 p.m., Noticentro a las 10:00 p.m., Caiga quien caiga, and many other publications and radio and television programs in today’s Puerto Rican media.
The current context of the Internet is a product of the multimedia convergence of the past two years, accompanied by the transformation of the text genres of the Web. Virtual communities have moved on to social networking sites. A review of the literature describing virtual communities and social networking Web sites would allow us to say that a virtual community is a group of people who: 1) come to the community with the desire to interact in order to satisfy needs or play specific role; 2) share the stated purpose for which the virtual community was started; 3) have a code that governs their relationships and systems that mediate interaction and facilitate cohesion among members. A virtual community is a space that shares certain characteristics with physical communities, developed in a virtual space constructed by means of computer connections, in which individuals may engage in social or financial relations, while having a feeling of ownership, at least symbolically. Virtual communities include discussion forums, e-mail and e-mail groups, news groups, chats, Multiple User Domain Groups, content managers, Peer to Peer systems, BBS or Bulletin Board Systems.
The recent concept of social networking on the Web is based on the development of Web sites that simulate social interaction. Some writers call this social software, since they enable the linkage of communication (blogs), the idea of community (MySpace, Hi5 and Second Life), and the notion of cooperation (Facebook or Wikipedia). These Web sites allow for establishing a contact grid, or “blended networking,” according to the developers of Web 2.0 through a social network that combines on- line elements and the real world. People in the social network combine the real and the virtual.
The social networking sites, and the uses and practices of new text-based sites such as blogs, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Second Life, Wikipedia, and FotoLog, hark back to the ideal of collaboration in cyberspace that the Internet pioneers had, becoming historical repositories of content documentation that constitute huge data banks acting like an electronic surveillance system, and foregrounding our social construction as subjects. This network of contacts, blended networking, highlights the process of the construction of our subjectivity, in which symbolic production becomes an everyday activity in all discursive practices of communication. In other words, the communicative experience under blended networking makes constant reference to the construction of the self. The veil that concealed the social construction of the self under notions like human nature, or personality, has been drawn aside by the integration of these simulators of social interaction into our daily life, the extreme case being the Second Life site. Web sites such as those of the newspapers Primera Hora and El Nuevo Día, and more recently, El Vocero exemplify the experience of multimedia convergence in Puerto Rico.
Author: Eliseo Colón Zayas
Published: August 31, 2010.
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