Feingold Calls For Phasing Out TV, Radio Marti Broadcasts To Cuba

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Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) said Tuesday (May 4) the government's continued funding of TV and Radio Marti was a waste and that it could and should save $300 million over 10 years by getting rid of it.

The broadcasts, overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, were launched in 1983 under President Ronald Reagan to deliver news and information to Cuba, but have been routinely criticized as ineffective.

Feingold was reacting to a report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released May 3, that concluded the service did not follow generally accepted journalistic standards, reached a minuscule audience, and was "haunted" by charges of cronyism and malfeasance.

The report concluded in the lead of its executive summary that "Radio and TV Marti, the U.S. Government's broadcasters to Cuba, continue to fail in their efforts to influence Cuban society, politics, and policy."

The government has used various methods to broadcast the services, including a balloon-borne transmitter, a pair of planes to broadcast from U.S. airspace off the Florida coast, and leased airtime on a Miami TV Azteca affiliate which reaches Cuba via DirecTV, though it is illegal in Cuba to receive it, according to the committee report.

The report recommends fixes to the program, like better training for program reviewers; moving the government's Office of Cuban Broadcasting, which oversees the program, from Miami to Washington and improving its programming. Funding has already been cut to the service, but Feingold has proposed eliminating the broadcasts altogether as part of his Control Spending Now Act.