It has been 36 years since Brazil returned to a widely competitive electoral system, after roughly two decades of authoritarianism. During the military dictatorship, electoral competition was not completely suppressed, although severely hampered. A symbol of the new democratic era was the return of a multi-partisan system.
Multi-partisanship had previously existed during two periods of Brazilian history: the First Republic (between 1889 and 1930), which was marked by local parties that held near monopolies in each state, and the post-war Second Republic (between 1945 and 1964). Sandwiched in the middle of those two eras was the authoritarian rule of Getúlio Vargas.
The return of political competition increased the importance of television and radio broadcasts for the outcome of the election. Brazilian political parties are entitled to free airtime for all positions – although elections for the executive branch receive much more exposure and attention. Airtime, however, is not equally distributed among candidates (as it is in France, for instance). Instead, big parties with more congressional seats get the lion’s share of the television and radio ad time. It allows these parties to create more elaborate films – which in turn made television ads the most expensive part of campaigns.