14ymedio, Havana, 18 January 2019 — The director general of RTV Comercial, Joel Ortega Quinteiro, has been detained for the alleged crimes of influence peddling and embezzlement, as confirmed by several sources in the sector. The official directed the largest state production and marketing company of films and television programs in Cuba.
Ortega Quinteiro was arrested earlier this month and taken to Villa Marista, the Operations Directorate of State Security in Havana. In addition, the director of artistic representation of RTV Comercial, Wendolyn Ferrer Vela, is under house arrest while the investigation is being conducted.
According to an employee of the company and another of the Institute of Music, the director is accused of possible mishandling of funds, overpayment of salaries to employees and that some in his family were hired by the departments that buy audiovisual equipment abroad.
The RTV director’s secretary declined to confirm the information in a telephone call with this newspaper, although she said that Ortega Quinteiro would not be available in his office “until the end of February.” When pushed, the employee explained that Friday was his “last day of work in the company” and that he was “liquidating everything” in his office in El Vedado.
The company, directed until now by Ortega Quinteiro, has been in charge of programs such as Sonando en Cuba, a program of musical competition that achieved an impressive audience within the Island. It has also produced the acclaimed film Conducta, winner of the Coral Award at the Havana Film Festival in 2014 and, more recently, the reel “Why do my friends cry?”
RTV Comercial has been in recent years the crown jewel of the Cuban Radio and Television Institute (ICRT by its spanish acronym) and has been responsible for obtaining foreign currency to reduce the amount allocated by the State to radio and television productions. With a management model more focused on commercialization, the entity began to be the focus of the economic police more than a year ago.
RTV’s audiovisuals are characterized by resources that are rarely available for regular television programs. “The company accumulated enemies and people who questioned how it handles resources and what projects it assumes,” an ICRT source told the newspaper, who requested anonymity. “It was a matter of time before Joel was knocked down because it was known he was committing irregularities.”
“There were also allegations of delays in payments and possible bribes to be hired to the staff of a program,” adds the state employee. “Although the ICRT has not officially reported anything to the workers, the director’s arrest is the talk of the day in the corridors.”
So far “the projects that RTV Comercial was conducting have not been suspended, but all those involved in these programs have their hearts in their mouths because of the fear of losing their jobs or of not being paid the agreed salary,” the source explained.
Some producers consulted praised the salaries that the company could afford to pay to the creators because the content was later commercialized internationally. However, other sources allude to the fact that many of the programs produced were never sold to other chains, which caused severe losses that have also weighed in the arrest of Ortega Quinteiro.
The technical staff that is hired by RTV Comercial earns high salaries in convertible pesos (CUC — roughly equivalent to the US dollar). The director of Sonando in Cuba, Manolo Ortega, earns 3,000 CUC (roughy $3,000 US or about 75,000 cuban pesos) for one season of the program that lasts less than three months. While any other director of musicals linked to ICRT only earns 2,400 CUP (Cuban pesos — about $96 US) in the same timeframe.
In an interview with the Cubanow site, Ortega Quinteiro stated that RTV applied “a production system that is not very far from traditional production,” although he acknowledged that “national television goes through issues related to material resources that escape from the hands of the creators and the institution,” something that his company sought to improve.
The company was born in 1994, in the midst of the deep economic crisis caused by the end of the Soviet Union. A moment in which a process of decentralization of foreign trade was promoted, so that each state agency could create a team or department in charge of imports and commercialization of its products.
However, it wasn’t until 2007 with the advent of digital television that RTV began to produce content with standards that could be sold in the international market. Since then, programs with audience participation have been its mainstay.
Ortega Quinteiro explained to the official press that the company offered at the beginning “three fundamental services: licensing of audiovisual works, production services and importation of equipment.” Now, it covers “ten business lines,” including the production of revenue-generating audiovisuals and co-productions with other institutions.
The night of December 31, RTV participated in the production of the television show for New Year’s Eve and in tribute to the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. The transmission was praised in the official press but a few days later Ortega Quinteiro was arrested and taken to the headquarters of the State Security.
Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria
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