Senate Democrats criticize Radio/TV Martí, recommend that it be integrated with VOA.

Posted: 05 May 2010   Print   Send a link
Washington Post, 4 May 2010, Karen DeYoung: "U.S. government television and radio broadcasts to Cuba have failed to make 'any discernible inroads into Cuban society or to influence the Cuban government,' the majority staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said in a report released Monday. ... The principal disagreement is over how many Cubans who can receive the programming choose to do so. ... The Senate panel's report echoed previous criticisms that the broadcasts do not meet journalistic standards of the Voice of America, its sister organization under the BBG, and proposed that its headquarters be moved from Miami to join the VOA in Washington."
   Miami Herald, 4 May 2010, Juan O. Tamayo: "The report, written by the committee's majority staff, recommended that the stations and their parent, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), be moved from Miami to Washington and their operations be 'subordinated' to Voice of America, the worldwide U.S. government broadcaster to 'ensure that programming is up to VOA standards.' The stations also should focus on 'quality programming,' it added, to better compete with what it described as recent improvements in Cuban government programming that include shows such as Grey's Anatomy, Friends and The Sopranos. ... [T]he Martí stations' supporters immediately attacked the document. 'John Kerry and his staff are out to kill OCB. They have always tried to kill it and they continue to try to kill it. They lack all credibility on this issue,' said Republican Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Miami."
   AFP, 1 May 2010: "OCB must also 'clean up its operation' by implementing editorial standards and drawing better on-air staff and managers, and 'spend less money on measuring audience size and focus more on quality programming.'"
   Foreign Policy, The Cable, 3 Apr 2010, Josh Rogin: "Both stations run unsubstantiated reports as if they were real news, use offensive and incendiary language in broadcasts, and have an audience of less than 2 percent of Cubans overall, mostly due to successful jamming by the Cuban government, according to the committee. The report also highlights allegations of nepotism and cronyism at the OCB. For example, the director of Voice of America's Latin American service is a nephew of the OCB director and the former director of TV Marti's programming pleaded guilty in 2007 to receiving more than $112,000 in kickbacks from an OCB vendor."
   Senator Russell Feingold press release, 4 May 2010: "'This report lays out Radio and TV Martí’s history of problems, failure to live up to journalistic standards and outright ineffectiveness,' Feingold said. 'The report is an indictment of the program’s wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars. Rather than trying to rehabilitate this toxic brand, we should scrap Radio and TV Martí.'"
   Inter Press Service, 4 May 2010, Jim Lobe: "Wayne Smith, the former head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana in the late 1970s until 1981 and a critic of Radio Marti since its birth, said the Obama administration should have "taken TV Marti off the air within weeks" of his inauguration and then moved Radio Marti back to VOA. He recalled a time before Radio Marti when 'we would go to conferences with Cuban officials on the bus, and everyone was listening to VOA. But once they took VOA off the air, that was the end.' 'Radio and TV Marti have been a fiasco from the beginning, because it's propaganda. VOA was very careful; they had their point of view, but they were careful to have sources and be balanced. That's not true of the (OCB). They just give their point of view, and their point of view is that of right-wing Cuban exiles.'"
   Radio Havana Cuba, 4 May 2010: "Radio and TV Martí, financed media by the U.S. government for subversion in Cuba, 'must undergo a huge reform to ensure its survival', estimated a U.S. congressional report released Monday."
   Washington Post, 5 May 2010, Al Kamen: "[A]bout 30 percent of Cubans polled said they watched CNN en Español on Cuban television during the past week, the report notes. If they have DirecTV, they can get Univision and ESPN and the like. All of which raises the question why a government broadcast operation, even if strongly supported by the exile community, is needed when the private sector appears to be doing the job quite well. Well, because they don't have Fox, that's why."
   When Radio Martí went on the air in 1985, its studios were located in Washington, and its ID included "un servicio de la Voz de los Estados Unidos de América," i.e., a service of VOA. Later, the VOA connection was dropped, and Radio and TV Martí moved to Miami in 1996. The Senate report would have the Martís move back to Washington and resume their affiliation with VOA.
   Also peculiar is the statement "spend less money on measuring audience size and focus more on quality programming." When assessing the performance of international broadcasting, members of Congress almost always first ask how many listener (or viewers) a service has. Will quality of programming now be determined by members of Congress rather than the less-often-measured audience? That would be an effective way to eliminate what's left of the audience, but, never mind, there may be no measurements to document that disappearance.
   Consolidation in US international broadcasting is a good thing, so more combination of effort between Radio/TV Martí and VOA would result in some refreshing efficiency. However, the Radio/TV Martí studio facility in Miami was constructed at considerable expense, so it might not make sense to abandon it immediately. In the meantime, the advantages of covering Latin America from Miami versus Washington can be assessed.

   Stanford Who's Who press release, 5 May 2010 "Christina M. Sans'on has been accepted among the ranks of leading professionals with Stanford Who's Who as a result of her remarkable work in the Broadcasting Industry. As Director of Programs for Radio and Television for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, as well as throughout her incredible professional career, Christina has consistently displayed the dedication and diligence necessary to be among the best. The Office of Cuba Broadcasting directs the operations of Radio and TV Martí, which broadcast accurate and objective news and information on issues of interest to the people of Cuba. Radio Martí follows Voice of America journalistic standards and guidelines in accordance with the Broadcasting to Cuba Act of 1983." -- Stanford Who's Who is associated neither with Stanford University nor with any other Who's Who. It's a private marketing endeavor.