Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Government report praises Radio/TV Marti

It’s hard to tell from the Miami Herald’s report what to make of a leaked State Department report on Radio and TV Marti. And until someone puts the report itself on the Internet – come on, it’s unclassified, after all – no one should leap to conclusions.

But based on the newspaper report, and in the spirit of skepticism about government information, let’s say a few things.

First, I wonder if this report – the product of months of research by Franklin Huddle, recently U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan – fulfills the mandate of the Administration’s Cuba commission, which in July 2006 said that “within 90 days” there would be "a comprehensive and independent review on ways to improve Cuba broadcasts."

The report says there is “anecdotal evidence” that listenership is up and there are reports that TV Marti is being seen in Cuba. But the report provides no data, and one doubts that the government-commissioned survey of Cuban émigrés in Miami will be released.

I’m glad someone is making money interviewing people in Florida, but the audience is in Cuba. The U.S. government used to commission surveys in Cuba – has this been discontinued? Why, in a $35 million-per-year operation that broadcasts to an island of 11 million people, do we have anecdotes and surveys taken in another country? And what are we to make of the government spokesman’s claim that listeners are calling Radio Marti from Cuba, where a brief call to the United States – which just might be monitored – consumes an average worker’s monthly pay?

The report says Radio/TV Marti director Pedro Roig is “assertive, inspiring.” Maybe so. But to call him the “most effective in recent history” is not saying much.

The Herald says this: “The report says information obtained from dissidents or independent journalists in Cuba, while important, is a ‘threat’ to Radio and TV Martí’s credibility because some dissidents may ‘seek to further their own causes’ while others may be Cuban government agents posing as dissidents.” That’s interesting; I have heard Cubans say the extensive coverage of dissidents is boring, but this passage seems to point to problems with reliability of information. All the more reason to release the report.

The report questions whether it makes sense for the U.S. government to continue paying to broadcast the Marti signals on Miami’s Radio Mambi and TV Azteca. Is this based on some evidence? Again, another reason to release the report itself.

1 comment:

leftside said...

An unclassified summary is available here.

It contains the understatement of the year:
"Greater emphasis is needed on internal quality control to ensure editorial standards are followed."

Supposedly they are supposed to use the same standards as VOA, which is actually a respectable organization. Marti is not even in the same league...