Radio Y Televisión Martí - Controversy and Legality

Controversy and Legality

Fabio Leite, Deputy Director of the Radiocommunications Office of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), has condemned radio and television transmissions to Cuba from the United States as illegal and inadmissible and more so when they are designed to foment internal subversion on the island. The director emphasized that this constant U.S. attack is in violation of ITU regulations, which stipulate that radio transmissions within commercial broadcasting on medium wave, modulated frequency or television must be conceived of as a good quality national service within the limits of the country concerned. The Cuban government also has insisted the penetration of their airwaves violates international law. This claim has not been elucidated; however, Cuba responds to these broadcasts by jamming the signals.

The Radio Martí broadcasts are directed to Cuba, and can be picked up throughout North, Central and South America when not being jammed. However, Radio Martí programs cannot be specifically directed to U.S. citizens under the same law that restricts Voice of America broadcasts.

On November 15, 2007, delegates to the World Radiocommunication Conference 2007 declared illegal the U.S. government's use of airplanes to beam the signals of Washington-funded Radio and Television Marti into Cuba, stating "A radio broadcasting station that functions on board an aircraft and transmits only to the territory of another administration without its agreement cannot be considered in conformity with the radio communications regulations."

A report by the Government Accountability Office accuses the station of engaging in political propaganda in the forms of editorializing, use of offensive and incendiary language in broadcasts, use of unsubstantiated reports coming from Cuba, and presentation of individual views as news. The claims of unprofessionalism are strongly rejected by the station's management. National Public Radio's On the Media has pointed out that while "the U.S. has spent close to a half billion dollars on TV and Radio Marti, the Cuban government has managed to effectively block the transmission signal, at least on the TV side. Viewership on the island is estimated to be a third of one percent. One study several years ago found that nine out of ten Cubans had never even heard of the channel."

According to a January 10, 2007 episode of the news and commentary program Democracy Now!, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CRE) called for a congressional investigation into the legality of broadcasting Radio and TV Marti over commercial airwaves from southern Florida. The group states that the Bush administration has reached an agreement with two south Florida commercial Spanish-language TV and radio stations to broadcast the TV Marti program, which the CRE accuses the US government of illegally paying the station $200,000 to air the Radio Marti program daily for six months, citing that U.S law prohibits broadcasting of propaganda inside the country.

Democracy Now! went on to state that a senior TV Marti executive was indicted by federal prosecutors for providing kickbacks in trade for certain contracts and the Inspector General's office has launched a review into the operations of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting which oversees Marti. In addition, the program indicates that Massachusetts Congressman William Delahunt has also promised to hold hearings on TV Marti.

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