Testimony of Pedro Roig
Office of Cuba Broadcasting
Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
June 11, 2003
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, I am Pedro Roig, Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), which oversees the operations of Radio and TV Martí. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to speak about our important mission, and recent accomplishments and initiatives in support of President Bush’s goal of modernizing Radio and TV Martí.
In accordance with the legislation that created Radio and TV Martí, we are dedicated to providing the people of Cuba with a reliable source of news and information that is accurate and objective, and to the promotion of freedom and democracy in Cuba. All of our efforts are focused on this very important mission, and ways that we can better deliver news and information to the Cuban people, denied to them by the Cuban government. We cover the Cuban economy, news relating to the independent human rights and dissident movement, U.S.-Cuban relations, and international stories of interest such as elections around the world. Radio and TV Martí programming is focused on the promotion of civil society and democratic institutions in Cuba and the promotion of freedom of the press.
I am pleased to be able to report to you on a number of recent initiatives and accomplishments that will enhance the ability of Radio and TV Martí to meet our critical mission.
As Chairman Tomlinson indicated, during the period of May 19 through May 21, 2003, a number of new initiatives were evaluated in an effort to strengthen both Radio and TV Martí broadcasts to Cuba.
On May 20, OCB also launched its upgraded web site with multiple dynamic pages designed to enhance distribution of Radio and TV Martí programming.
OCB is also involved in a continuing effort to enhance the programming on both Radio and TV Martí (which is now broadcasting in prime time – 6:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.), so that we can have a wider appeal to the various segments of the Cuban population. To this end, we have initiated a comprehensive review of all Radio and TV Martí programming to ensure that our broadcasts are effective, meet the highest journalistic standards, and accurately reflect U.S. Government views on important issues.
As part of our program review process, we have retained a group of outside broadcast professionals and academics to conduct a complete review of Radio Marti programming. While they are only in the beginning stages of their review, their initial reaction, in which I concur, is that Radio Marti needs to be significantly restructured to meet the needs of a changed Cuban population. In the almost twenty years since the inception of Radio Marti, the demography of Cuba has changed dramatically. The new generation’s programming needs and desires are very different from those of the previous generation and need to be considered in the formulation of our broadcast product.
We are now in the process of formulating a modernized programming schedule to serve our “core listeners” who are best described as mature (35 years of age and above), both male and female, politically aware, dissatisfied with the regime, desirous of change, and interested in reliable, factual news of Cuba and the outside world.
As part of the program review process noted above, we have also undertaken a comprehensive study of a format designed to attract a younger listener, best described as a person (18-35 years of age), both male and female, raised under the current regime, curious about the outside world, skeptical of Cuban media, for the most part non-political, however dissatisfied with their current circumstances, and desirous of a better way of life.
The outside broadcast professionals have also noted that it is important for both Radio and TV Marti to clearly articulate, on the air, with greater frequency, the mission of Radio and TV Marti, which is to provide objective, complete, and accurate news and information, and the promotion of democracy for the people of Cuba. Regardless of the nature or form of the revised programming for Radio and TV Marti, I assure you that the
central core of the program material we broadcast will be consistent with our mission.
It should be noted that both Radio and TV Martí provided extensive in-depth coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom (TV Martí actually went to an all-news format during this crisis) and the recent crackdown in Cuba of peaceful human rights leaders, which enabled the Cuban people to stay informed on these critical world events. Furthermore, OCB has entered into an agreement with Major League Baseball to broadcast two regular season games per week throughout the 2003 season, as well as the entire playoffs and the World Series on both Radio and TV Martí. This will serve as an important tool for Radio and TV Martí to build audience share, while enabling us to fulfill our mandate to provide uncensored news and information to the people of Cuba.
In closing, I would like to assure you that as Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, I will continue to diligently work toward meeting President Bush’s stated goal of modernizing Radio and TV Martí, and the Congressional mandate “to further the open communication of accurate information and ideas to the people of Cuba,” and to “promote the cause of freedom in Cuba.”
I wish to thank you for the opportunity to appear before the subcommittee, and I will be glad to answer any questions you may have.