Martí broadcasts to face Congressional scrutiny

WASHINGTON: The debate over the anti-Fidel Castro Radio and TV Martí and its intended audience has ramped up with the 110th Congress taking office and new committee chair Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA) hoping to hold hearings about the broadcasts in late January.

WASHINGTON: The debate over the anti-Fidel Castro Radio and TV Martí and its intended audience has ramped up with the 110th Congress taking office and new committee chair Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA) hoping to hold hearings about the broadcasts in late January.

Run by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and overseen by the US Broadcast Board of Governors (BBG), Radio and TV Martí is intended, like the Voice of America (VOA) network, to provide Cubans with "accurate and objective" news, according to the BBG Web site, though critics say the content is mainly heavy-handed anti-Castro, pro-US propaganda.

Delahunt is the ranking Democratic member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs' new Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee. While no definitive date has been set for the hearings, the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) has called for the Government Accountability Office to investigate the US government's funding of broadcasts over South Florida commercial stations Radio Mambí 710 AM and WPMF-TV 38.

As with VOA, broadcasts of TV and Radio Martí are prohibited in the US, though the BBG noted that alternate means of broadcast may be used if signals are jammed by the Cuban government, as long as reception within the US is "inadvertent." The problem, say critics, including Joe Garcia, a director at the advocacy group New Democratic Network, is that audiences of the alternate broadcast stations are primarily in the US.

Critics also state that because the 50,000-watt Miami-based Radio Mambí 710 AM, which is receiving $182,000 for six months of broadcasting Radio Martí, operates on the same frequency as the Cuban government's 100,000-watt Radio Rebelde, it is unlikely to be very widely heard in Cuba.

And Garcia argued that for TV Marti, for which WPMF-TV 38 is receiving $195,000 to broadcast, satellite time could as easily be purchased from a station in, say, Utah as in Florida.

Larry Hart, BBG communications coordinator, denied any deliberate attempt to reach Cuban- Americans. "This has... everything to do with overcoming the jamming of Radio and TV Martí," he said via e-mail, adding that Radio Mambí can be heard in parts of Cuba and that WPMF-TV was selected because, among other reasons, it has a particularly good "footprint" in Cuba.

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