By Frank Cerabino, Palm Beach Post, 06/18/09
TV Marti launched on the afternoon of March 27, 1990. All went well for 23 minutes. Then Cuba started blocking the U.S. signal. And that’s been the story for the 19 years since. We’ve spent a half-billion
dollars broadcasting TV shows to nearly no one. That’s “a colossal waste of taxpayer money,” as U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., once pointed out. This week, the House Foreign Affairs Oversight Subcommittee highlighted the continued absurdity of supporting the Cuba-directed broadcasts. The centerpiece of that hearing was a recent Government Accountability Office report pointing out that despite beaming TV Marti’s signal via the Internet, by two satellites and from an airplane that flies six days a week off the
Cuban coast, it remains a broadcast without an audience. $35 million broadcast to no one
At first, the broadcast was run from Washington as an arm of Voice of America. But since the mid-1990s, the operation and its counterpart, Radio Marti, were moved to Miami, where they’ve become a cottage industry for South Florida’s Cuban-American exile community.
The GAO report says that phone surveys estimated that the Cuban audience for TV Marti may be less than 1 percent. The AeroMarti plane, which costs $5 million a year, was supposed to subvert Cuba’s successful jamming, but it hasn’t, the report said.
Four years ago, a move to pull the plug on TV Marti died in the U.S. Senate. “Although Castro is still working to jam the signal, it’s important we keep doing all we can so that information can get to the people he’s still
oppressing,” U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla,, said at the time. Now, in its 20th year of futility with an annual budget of nearly $35 million, TV Marti remains vociferously defended by legislators who consider themselves crusaders against big government programs that waste taxpayer money.
This week, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack IV, R-Fort Myers, told the congressional subcommittee that TV Marti is needed to confront “the Castro brothers” and show support for the Cuban people.
“As they peek though the dark curtains, seeking information, news, or reliable and authoritative sources of accurate, objective and comprehensive news, it would simply be unreasonable to cut TV Marti as one of their
options,” Mack said.
TV Marti breaks propaganda law
Actually, the GAO report found that TV Marti has lacked journalisticstandards, “particularly related to ensuring balance and objectivity.” And because it is able to be viewed on DirectTV by some Americans in the Miami area, it also violates a federal act that bars domestic audiences from government propaganda aimed at foreign audiences. And yet, TV Marti will probably go on, doing what it does best: Stoking a key voting bloc by converting millions of taxpayer dollars into static.