Colombian Television Turns 60

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

On June 13, 1954 Colombia conducted its first TV broadcast, becoming the sixth country in Latin America with television transmission. With the national anthem and a few words from General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (president of Colombia from 1953-1957), under the direction of Fernando Gómez Agudelo, television in Colombia was born as a state initiative to promote education and culture.

 

Rojas imported this technology from Germany and the United States, investing 10 million Colombian pesos (value not adjusted for inflation). A Cuban team was responsible for the technical aspects, and Colombian radio actors and announcers such as Julio Sánchez Vanegas came up with the content of the first programs that were broadcast. Now, 60 years later, television remains the media most used by Colombians and reaches most of the country’s territory.

 

Soap operas have included “Yo Soy Betty, la Fea” (“Ugly Betty”), created by RCN Television and written by Fernando Gaitán, which won the 2010 Guinness World Record as the most successful soap opera of all time. It was broadcast in more than 180 countries, dubbed into over 25 languages, and saw more than 28 adaptations around the world. “Betty” successfully placed Colombian talent on the international stage, attracting the arrival of foreign investors to the country.

Today, Hollywood recognizes Colombia as an attractive country for producing its series and programs. Several international companies have filmed in the country. Fox International has shot  “Lynch,” “Tiempo Final,” “Mental,” and “Kdabra.” NBC-Telemundo has produced soap operas including: “A Mano Limpia,” “A Corazón Abierto” (“Open-hearted”), “Amantes del Desierto” (“Desert Lovers”), “En Otra Piel” (“Part of Me”), and “El Zorro, la Espada y la Rosa” (“The Sword and the Rose”) (with Sony Pictures Television). Both companies have their own soundproof sets in Bogota, where they produce television content to be broadcast internationally.

 

Series produced for U.S. audiences have also found in Colombia the ideal locations to develop their stories. This is the case of the NBCUniversal Canada production company, which filmed two episodes of the series Covert Affairs in Barranquilla, Cartagena, Santa Marta and Riohacha.

 

To celebrate the birthday of Colombian television, on July 17 of this year the website Señal Memoria (Memory Channel) (www.senalmemoria.gov.co) will be launched. The project will seek to recover and conserve Colombia’s sound and audiovisual heritage from the past 60 years.