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Radio, TV Martí Are Important, Officials Tell BBG

Office of Cuba Broadcasting says services should be maintained

Officials with the Office of Cuba Broadcasting say it’s important to maintain the current level of services — or increase them — so that Radio and TV Martí broadcasts continue to reach as many people as possible.

This was the key takeaway from the OCB presentation to the Broadcasting Board of Governors meeting in Washington, Wednesday.

The relevance of Radio and TV Martí is being discussed by many international media observers because of the relaxation of travel and trade restrictions between the United States and the communist-run island nation. To some in Congress the service has become a prime target for budget cuts.

BBG Chair Jeffrey Shell began the meeting by saying the recent attempt to restore diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba is a historic development. “Our work in Cuba is important, perhaps now more than ever. Some may think our work there is done, but in many ways our work is just beginning,” he said.

OCB Director Carlos Garcia-Perez says the mission doesn’t change because of the recent developments in relations between the two countries. “Cuba is a country in transition. [OCB] is in the front seat of a very important point in history,” Garcia-Perez said. “More than ever we need to provide Cuba the free flow of information regardless of where this new road in diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba leads.”

The White House is moving to defederalize OCB. The Obama administration revealed in its FY2016 budget request plans to begin the process of creating a new grantee that will combine the Office of Cuba Broadcasting and the VOA Latin American division. The new grantee organization would be called Spanish Language International Media.

The BBG oversees the OCB, Voice of America, and BBG-funded grantees Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.