Proposals for the Cuban Press / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Man in front of a newsstand reading a printed version of '14ymedio', distributed in “alternate” ways.
Man in front of a newsstand reading a printed version of ’14ymedio’, distributed in “alternate” ways.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 21 October 2015 — In the last half century the Cuban media could be categorized as private monopoly in the hands of the only permitted Party. However, in the inevitable process of transition to democracy, it is essential to modify this situation. The first step should undoubtedly be to diversify the forms of ownership of these informative spaces to ensure quality and plurality.

The presumed arrival of several international media seeking to install themselves in the country could help to raise the quality of journalism and develop new approaches. However, it will have to be done appropriately so as not to strangle the incipient national independent press, which confronts serious material disabilities in the face of the current monopoly situation and the great consortiums arriving in the country.

The best solution for a scenario of this nature would be, along with freedom of the press, the creation of (non-state) public media that would combine a cooperative structure with state subsidies and an eligible and renewable management team. “Everyone’s” information channels should not be subject to the contents of one’s purse, nor the editorial conspiracies of journalists with any type of power, be it political or economic.

The renewal of political life in the country will also require the presence of all ideological viewpoints in the media. However, none should be tied to the financial resources of the political groups. So to achieve an equality of opportunities there will have to be laws in this regard.

The evolution of democracy in Cuba will determine what is most desirable, but it should seize the relative advantage presented by starting from scratch. This involves learning from the experiences of others, and opening a public debate to facilitate finding the best approaches and formulas for future Cuban press.

The parliament, representative and plural, should have its own channel, although it would threaten to be very boring, but it would have the obligation to transmit the debates, publish the laws and clarify the doubts of the population. Hours of interminable discussion to change a comma or a phrase in a law would fill the broadcasts.

There will also need to be a space – television, digital or printed – for the dissemination of cultural values, without elitism or favor. Faces linked to the party in power should not get the most on-air time, nor should those who can pay for the spaces, but rather those who have more value and shine in our country. Something like this will put a definitive end to the shameful blacklists that have censored in the media emigrant artists, “deserting” athletes, scientists critical of the government and citizens who don’t embrace the ideology in power.

If these commitments are met in the public media, the private can compete on quality and diversity, under the premise of the greatest possible freedom of expression. However, these alone are just the foundation of the complex edifice of a free press, which in their own way will have to emerge from its own cracks and adjust to the earthshaking movements of reality. Citizens will cease to be passive receptors of what they see, hear or read, consuming at will information “a la carte.”

It will then be the job of journalists to offer a professional and attractive product, one that manages to compete in the market for information without kneeling before power nor appealing to exaggeration as a strategy.