Although It’s Got a New Look… It’s Still the Roundtable / Yoani Sanchez

mesa_redondaFew TV shows have been the object of as many jokes and parodies as the Roundtable. Emerging from the heat of the so-called Battle of Ideas, this program shows the highest level of political proselytizing to be found in our national media. Its fundamental principal is to overwhelm the television audience with official opinion, without allowing access for contrary or critical views. To denigrate the nonconformists, with no right to respond, is among the most repeated tactics at the microphones of this incredibly boring broadcast. Everything is based on the premise that we live in “paradise” while the rest of the world is falling apart all around us.

As of September 10, the Roundtable has reduced its “on air” time by half an hour. It has also modernized its set and even seems to have added a brand new iPad for the exclusive use of the moderator. The camera angles are bolder and some of its chubby participants have been put on diets. They hope, with these tweaks, to add something of modernity to what was covered with the thick dust of the anachronistic. However, the main precepts governing the program remain intact. The most obvious is the absence of plurality and the resulting monotony that results when everyone thinks alike. And, a great contradiction, this kind of rubbish pays its journalists the highest salaries known in the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT).

My words on this program, however, may be too influenced by the work I also do in the information field. I will illustrate the opinion many Cubans have with a recent anecdote. A little while ago, a friend was outside a police station demanding the release of an activist who had been arbitrarily detained. Her cellphone rang and it was her father calling. He was afraid because his neighbor had told him that his daughter was mixed up with “dissidents.” In the heat of the situation, my friend only managed to answer, “Papi, I already told you, don’t watch the Roundtable any more!” This simple phrase accentuates the gulf between our national reality and the script of this televised soapbox. She was telling her father that he continued to believe in a Cuba that doesn’t exist, a country where no arrests happen outside the law, there are no police threats, no repudiation rallies. An apocryphal nation that only exists from Monday through Friday, for one hour… on our small screen.

21 September 2012