Thursday, October 3, 2013

Radio and TV Marti On the Air Despite Gov’t Shutdown

Broadcasts to Cuba via Radio and TV Martí (RTVM) have continued despite a U.S. government shutdown that started on Tuesday.

According to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), U.S.-funded news that the organization oversees such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and RTVM are “necessary for conducting foreign relations essential to the national security.”  Hence, BBG operations are exempt from being suspended during the government shutdown period.

BBG activities have been slimmed down to encourage the use of “pre-recorded material” and bars starting any “new programs or projects.”  Nevertheless, breaking news and high-priority live news programs will continue and RTVM’s website has been kept updated with news stories.  (Ironically, one of the website’s most recently headlines was the “failure” of negotiations yesterday between U.S. President Barack and Congressional leaders to end the shutdown.)

The fact that the Office of Management and Budget signed off on this indicates how high a priority our broadcasting activities are,” said BBG spokeswoman Lynne Weil to Foreign Policy’s The Cable website.  “The mission of the agency is to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy”.

Broadcasts from Radio Martí (founded in 1983) and TV Martí (started in 1990) are based out of Miami and is rand are beamed into Cuba with the aim of overcoming the tight media controls under the Castro regime.

The effectiveness of RVTM has been called into question such as a 2010 Senate Foreign Relations Committee study that concluded that RTVM had “failed to make any discernable inroads into Cuban society or to influence the Cuban Government”.  Critics also claim that RTVM broadcasts are jammed by the Cuban government and reach a tiny amount of the island’s residents who supposedly prefer watching U.S. shows like “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” on state-run TV

Cuban-American legislators on both sides of the aisle are strong backers of RTVM as was the case last month when Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart opposed criticism to the grounding of a plane used by TV Marti. A 2010 report from the conservative Heritage Foundation supported the Office of Cuba Broadcasting that directs RVTM operations as a “symbol of American efforts to breach the firewalls of Communism and disseminate news, opinion, and U.S. policies geared toward the people on the island”.

In the meantime, the government shutdown has impacted the Latino community in numerous ways such as those involved in immigration cases:
Immigration court judges are hearing cases involving people who are in detention, but leaving many others on hold, said Lauren Alder Reid, the counsel for legislative and public affairs for the Executive Office of Immigration Review, to Fox News Latino…
Some 350,000 cases are pending before immigration judges, the paper said. Such cases normally take a long time, a year or more, for example, to conclude.
“This is a nightmare. It is already a nightmare, because of the huge backlog in the court system,” said Judy London, a lawyer with the Public Counsel agency in Los Angeles, according to the (Washington) Post. “When we go into court, we are often told the first available trial date is a year later. This could mean more delays of months, or even another year.”
Video Source– YouTube via user MartiNoticias (Excerpt from a 2011 Radio Marti program on Cuban bloggers).

Online Sources - Fox News Latino; Heritage Foundation; IPS; Washington Post; Foreign Policy; Marti Noticias; Miami New Times; Broadcasting Board of Governors

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