Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa
Professor, political commentator, President and...journalist. In 2016 he became the highest representative of Portuguese citizens when elected President, but, during the 1970’s and 80’s, he was the director of Expresso and founded Semanário (both weeklies)
He insists on presenting himself as a Law professor, but the overwhelming majority of the Portuguese people know him for two dimensions: for explaining the news and for being, himself, the news.
What some do not know, or do not have in mind, is that Marcelo’s connection to the news is not confined to these two dimensions. The news that he explains and the news that he is were both, back in the day, the news written by him, the news that he gave, the news that he made.
Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is truly the supreme commander of the Media forces. He writes the news, he comments the news and he is, himself, news.
Three dimensions that he always knew how to balance during forty years of a public and newsworthy life.
After a brilliant academic career he quickly stands out in the Media. He is appointed assistant director of Expresso even before he is 30 years old. When Pinto Balsemão goes to the government, he trusts Marcelo with the administration of the newspaper. A period in which Expresso makes a name for itself for the plurality and independence with which it treats its main shareholder’s government.
His experience leading Expresso is short. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa goes to the other side of the news. He is asked to join the government. First as the State Secretary and then as the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs. His unique style and his past as a journalist attract the Media spotlights and catch the attention of the Press. Even so, he had less power as a Minister than he had influence as the Expresso director. A lesson he will never forget.
When, in 1983, he leaves the government, he goes back to the Media. He makes news again. But, this time around, with his own project. Semanário is born, a newspaper with a pure, tough and, above all, clear political message. Marcelo knows how to network. He gathers new values and renowned values in the newsroom. Semanário also stands out for being different. It releases the first social magazine. In a product where everything had an ideological interpretation, and in a country known by its socialist equality, OLÁ! was used to remind people that Portugal continued to have an elite.
In spite of everything, Marcelo’s editorials are the ones which leave a deepest mark on the agenda. Among criticism to the central block, a new democratic-social tendency is born in the pages of Semanário. Under the name “New Hope” [«Nova Esperança»], Durão Barroso, Pedro Santana Lopes and António Pinto Leite, in addition to Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa himself, gather to create a new political party. “New Hope” would give two Prime-Ministers, one European Commission President and one President of the Republic to the country. But, above all, Marcelo balances, once more, different dimensions. He makes the news and he is, himself, the news.
Cavaco Silva’s unexpected triumph in the PSD Congress, in Figueira da Foz, and the years of “cavaquism” that follow are what postpone his ambitions… all the aspirations and by several decades.
In 1990, he becomes news again when he enters the run for the Lisbon City Hall. The man of the Media and of the Press unexpectedly loses on Television against Jorge Sampaio. The small screen wasn’t his natural habitat yet. It would be.
He stops being the news, but, this time around, he no longer makes news. In 1993, he debuts a whole new format on TSF: political commentary. Now as a professor, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa commented other people’s news. The programme Exame assesses political actors, grades them, builds and destroys figures and, above all, leaves a mark on the agenda.
The programme’s success is interrupted by the Cavaco Silva’s departure. In 1996, he runs for the leadership of PSD and wins. In a new and frenetic pace, he restrains, in the Media, newly-elected António Guterres’ governance. He approves his budgets in advance, forces two referendums and a constitutional review. He defeated everyone. Internally, he demands clear majorities of support favoring a strategy of getting close to the man who, in the pages of the newspaper O Independente, had dictated the end of “”cavaquism”. Former journalist Marcelo’s PSD joined a colligation with former journalist Paulo Portas’ CDS. Two Media men were joined in a colligation and it was through the Media that the country watched the end of the colligation. A Paulo Portas’ interview ends the new Democratic Alliance. Marcelo quits. Paulo Portas stays. The precedent remains. Portas would be the minister of three PSD leaders.
Rebelo de Sousa is no longer news, again, and goes back to the Media to reinvent political commentary, that he had helped invent himself. This time, on the small screen.
He debuts on TVI in 2000 and quickly reaches the station’s prime time. The success of his interventions is such that he stops being a mere commentator. He makes the news and makes the political agenda on Sundays. That’s how it was when, in 2004, he left the Queluz station following pressure from a government of his own party. His commentaries were a bother and the commentator was excessively independent.
It was this independent attitude that he always knew how to keep. No one could control Marcelo. Not his nor others’. And it was with his attitude that he was on RTP’s channel 1 for over five years. Ratings proved him right. The long list of politicians following his lead too. The term “professor” becomes an affectionate petit nom.
In 2010, he accepts to go back to TVI. There are now dozens of politicians working as TV commentators. But Marcelo is still the audience leader. By far. The professor at Faculdade de Direito de Lisboa is a Media phenomenon of popularity and proximity. Media phenomenon on both sides of the news. Reaching millions of Portuguese people every Sunday.
On the 24th of January, 2016, Professor Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa is elected President of the Republic in the first round. Curiously, he ended up having more votes than viewers on TVI.