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Anti-Castro broadcasts reach Cuba

Posted on Wed, Jun. 20, 2007

Anti-Castro broadcasts reach Cuba
By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ
Associated Press Writer

MIAMI —
The U.S. government's anti-Castro radio and TV stations have improved
significantly in recent years after allegations of corruption and
mismanagement, according to a draft State Department review of the
Office of Cuba Broadcasting.

But how many people are watching and listening to the stations, designed
to offer an alternative to the tightly controlled Cuban media, is unclear.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press on the eve of a
congressional debate over future Cuba-related funding, cites a boost in
TV Marti's signals reaching Cuba, but it bases those conclusions on
anecdotal evidence not included in the report.

"We're very pleased. I think it reflects the hard work that's being done
here," said Alberto Mascaro, chief of staff for the Cuba broadcasting
office, "and more importantly it reflects the hard work of our employees."

Though similar reviews of the stations included listener and viewer data
in past years, the recent audit, conducted from January through March,
did not. However, the review lauded the broadcasting office's use of a
Gulfstream jet to beam signals into Cuba, saying it could be replicated
in other parts of the world where governments attempt to block U.S.
broadcasts.

Mascaro said conducting accurate surveys of Cuban listening and viewing
patterns is next to impossible in the communist nation.

Radio and TV Marti are requesting $33 million in next year's budget,
down from $38 million they received last year. The Bush administration
also requested $46 million for other Cuba-related programs to promote
political change on the island, but a House bill likely headed to the
floor this week slashed that to $9 million.

That makes for the Marti stations all the more important for those
who support the current U.S. policy toward Cuba, which has been under an
American trade for more than 40 years.

Critics, including U.S. Reps. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Bill Delahunt,
D-Mass., have long accused the network of airing one-sided broadcasts
and giving jobs to political allies. They also maintain the TV
broadcasts are a waste of money because they have long been jammed by
's government.

Delahunt, who said he has not yet seen the review, planned to conduct
interviews this weekend and listen to concerns regarding Radio and TV Marti.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including evaluating
whether Marti programs recently carried on South Florida TV and radio
stations reach Cubans. It also urged tighter security and better quality
control to make sure Marti employees follow standards.

Finally, the review urged the Cuba broadcasting office to create a
long-term plan for providing programming in a post-Castro Cuba, as well
as how to compete now with the "Telesur" satellite broadcast, funded by
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's government.

A spokeswoman for the State Department's inspector general's office,
which conducted the review, said the agency would not comment on a
report that had not yet been released. The review's findings were first
reported by the Miami Herald.

http://www.miamiherald.com/772/story/146257.html

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