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    Democrats criticize Radio, TV Martí

    Posted on Tuesday, 05.04.10

    Democrats criticize Radio, TV Martí
    Senate Democrats called for Radio and TV Martí to be moved from Miami and made a part of Voice of America. By JUAN O. TAMAYO
    jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

    U.S. Senate Democrats, arguing that Radio and TV Martí have failed to make any visible inroads in Cuba, recommended Monday the stations be moved from Miami to Washington and folded into Voice of America.

    “It’s disappointing that after 18 years Radio and TV Martí have failed to make any discernable inroads into Cuban society or to influence the Cuban government,” said Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, in releasing a committee majority staff report.

    “U.S. civil society programs may have noble objectives, but we need to examine whether we’re achieving them,” added the Massachusetts Democrat, who favors easing U.S. sanctions on Cuba and engaging the island’s government.

    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.

    `OUT TO KILL OCB’

    Pedro Roig, director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, could not be reached for a comment on the 15-page report, although the 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.

    “As the Cuban regime tightens its hold on the Cuban people, the Congress should be focused on expanding the flow of uncensored information about the dictatorship’s brutality and abuses,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, another Miami Republican.

    “The focus should be on growing and improving, rather than burying into VOA.”

    COMPLAINTS

    Speculation that OCB would be moved to Washington and become part of Voice of America has been around since last summer, after former OCB chief of staff Alberto Mascaró was hired as director of Voice of America’s Spanish-language division.

    The committee staff report, based in interviews with station employees and several past Congressional investigations of troubles at the two stations, ticked off a long string of complaints against the Martí stations over the years,

    Although Radio Martí was created in 1983 — and TV Martí in 1990 — to provide Cubans with reliable and unbiased information, it said, there have been many complaints that they do not “adhere to generally accepted journalistic standards” and use “offensive and incendiary language” in its news broadcasts.

    ALLEGATIONS

    Their audience remains minuscule — less than 2 percent of Cubans listen to Radio Martí, and TV Martí has virtually no viewers at all — in part because of Cuban government jamming but also because some Cubans do not consider them to be “objective,” according to the report.

    “Finally, allegations of cronyism and malfeasance continue to haunt OCB,” it added, noting that Mascaró is Roig’s nephew.

    TV Martí’s former director of programming pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges of taking about $112,000 in kickbacks from an OCB contractor in Miami, the report noted, adding, “These allegations of nepotism and corruption have harmed morale and led to questions about management’s transparency.”

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/05/04/1611636/democrats-criticize-radio-tv-marti.html