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Democracy, Television, and the Mediatization of Chilean Politics: How the Medium Became the Message in Post-Pinochet Chile

  • Author(s): Simón Salazar, Harry L.
  • Advisor(s): Hallin, Daniel C.;
  • Cole, Michael
  • et al.

Augusto Pinochet’s regime permanently altered Chilean politics during his seventeen years as dictator of Chile. By the late 1980s, Pinochet’s hold on power remained unyielding, political reconciliation with the military was unimaginable, and civil war seemed inevitable. Notwithstanding the lack of substantive political change, on March 11, 1990, Pinochet ceremoniously handed the presidential sash to the leader of his legal opposition, Patricio Aylwin, thus initiating a peaceful transition to civilian rule in Chile.

My dissertation examines the context and content of the Franja de Propaganda Electoral of 1988. What loosely translates as “official space for electoral propaganda” - was a nationally televised, largely uncensored, 30-minute political program, representing the two sides of the 1988 Plebiscito; the NO campaign in opposition to the military regime, and the pro-Pinochet SÍ campaign.

The Franja Electoral became a mediated space of Chilean politics, just beyond the repressive reach of the Pinochetista regime, within which a seemingly impossible transition was not only articulated, but also, through which, a transformation of Chilean political culture was engendered. To help explain this transformation, I draw from a conceptual framework known as mediatization theory, to examine the Franja Electoral as a sample case for the mediatization of Chilean politics. I propose that this case is best understood as an historical, political, and theoretical process, rooted in the cultural assimilation of an imagined political configuration. The mediatization of Chilean politics was a process that would ultimately help reconcile a contradictory relationship between what was politically viable as a social and historical course of action, with what was represented as acceptable in a mediated, televisual space of political culture.

Furthermore, this project helps in the recovery of an exceptionally rare, complete collection of the 1988 Franja Electoral, and includes one of only a handful of content analyses performed on this important audio-visual material. Finally, my use of mediatization theory involves the incorporation of Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), to analyze the Franja Electoral as an artifact of Chilean political culture - a mediated representation of an enduring qualitative alteration in the meaning of Democracy in Chile.

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