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TV Martí

A $530-million, 20-year federal government venture to broadcast American values in Cuba has yielded a minuscule audience, no measurable impact and strong suggestions of cronyism for a politically potent South Florida constituency.

Funding for Radio and TV Marti has grown to $37 million a year, even though a nine-member advisory board set up to guide the U.S. broadcasting effort has not met in eight years. The White House recently supplied a list of current members of the President's Advisory Board for Cuba, which included a man who has been dead for 11 years.

In 2005, the Broadcasting Board of Governors " which oversees the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, along with Voice of America and the government's other nonmilitary international broadcasters " reported that fewer than 100,000 people on the island of more than 11 million were listening weekly to the U.S.-run radio station. The monthly audience for TV Marti is estimated to number in the hundreds or less.

Those Cubans who do manage to tune in hear or see programming " including news shows, documentaries and even a sitcom mocking Castro " that is sprinkled with vulgarity and omits stories critical of the Bush administration and Miami's Cuban exile community, all in apparent violation of federal broadcast standards.

Unlike every other U.S.-funded international broadcaster, OCB doesn't have an administrative office in Washington.

The current director of Radio and TV Marti, Miami attorney Pedro Roig, has overseen some unusual employment arrangements, including hiring his wife's nephew as his chief of staff and contracting with a former legal client to write a comedy. Roig declined to comment on the stations and their operation.

Source: Los Angeles Times


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