14ymedio, Havana, 9 February 2016 — The United States government on Tuesday announced plans to replace the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), which runs Radio and TV Martí, with a “Spanish language concessionaire.” The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) did not elaborate on the proposal.
“The BBG requested authority to establish a new non-federal Spanish-language media organization, which will receive a grant from the BBG and perform the functions of the current Office of Cuba Broadcasting,” the document explained.
The closing of the operations of Radio and TV Marti is among the requests of the Government of Cuba in the process of the thaw between the two countries that began in December 2014.
The broadcasts to Cuba started under the administration of President Ronald Reagan in the eighties, to offer information different from that offered by the Cuban media controlled by the Havana government, and so contribute to eroding Fidel Castro’s regime.
Last December a new OCB direction was named; the Puerto Rican lawyer Maria Malule Gonzalez replaced Carlos Garcia-Perez, who had led the agency since 2010.
No changes in the content of the programming or the operating budget – amounting to over 27 million dollars annually – were announced at that time.
The news on Tuesday has provoked alarm among the more than 100 employees of Radio and Television Martí, whose studios are in Miami, according to a report in El Nuevo Herald. The newspaper reported that an employee, who requested anonymity, said he was concerned about “losing federal benefits” with the “privatization of operations.”
BBG’s executive director John F. Lansing said in a conference call that the change seeks primarily to save on operating costs and increase the “flexibility” of the office.
“Nothing in this proposal changes the mission of OCB which will remain as it is now, dynamic, important and crucial,” said Lansing, who does not predict big changes immediately and warns that any transformation must go through Congress.
“The mission of OCB would not be affected, it would be exactly the same mission at the same level of funding, nothing would change that,” he said. “Secondly, any change, any defederalization of OCB, would still be subject to a legislative process, where it may or may not occur, and thirdly, the effect would depend on whether it takes place, and if, indeed, it does takes place, how it would be designed at some point in the future.”