Broadcasting to Cuba:

Observations Regarding TV Marti's Strategy and Operations

GAO-09-758T: Published: Jun 17, 2009. Publicly Released: Jun 17, 2009.

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Jess T. Ford
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This testimony discusses GAO's work on U.S. television broadcasting to Cuba. The United States has been broadcasting to Cuba for more than two decades via Radio Marti and, subsequently, TV Marti to "break the information blockade" and promote freedom and democracy in Cuba. U.S. television broadcasting to Cuba is performed by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), which is a U.S. government entity, overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), and based in Miami. OCB operates TV Marti, which broadcasts news, commentary, and entertainment programming to Cuba. From the inception of these broadcasting efforts, various questions have been raised regarding their purpose, quality, and effectiveness. In light of the more than $500 million that has been spent over the years on broadcasting to Cuba and OCB's almost $35 million annual budget, we have reviewed a variety of issues related to the effectiveness of OCB's television broadcasts.

Since the inception of TV Marti in 1990, GAO has reported on longstanding weaknesses in TV Marti's operations. This testimony will be based on two recent GAO reports, issued in July 2008 and January 2009. Based on your interest, this testimony will focus mainly on key observations regarding TV Marti. These observations include the following: (1) OCB's approach for broadcasting and what is known about the size of TV Marti's audience in Cuba (2) How BBG and OCB ensure TV Marti's compliance with journalistic principles (3) The steps taken to ensure that U.S. television broadcasting to Cuba adheres to domestic and international broadcasting laws, agreements, and standards (4) The steps that BBG and OCB have taken to address management and oversight challenges (5) BBG's International Broadcasting Bureau's (IBB) contract award process for television broadcasting to Cuba. In brief, Mr. Chairman, we found certain actions are needed to improve the strategy and operations of U.S. television broadcasting efforts to Cuba. To assist decisionmakers in formulating the U.S. broadcasting strategy and making funding decisions, we recommended that BBG assemble data to help decisionmakers assess the effectiveness and return on investment of OCB's various transmission methods. We also made recommendations in other areas, such as operations and contracting practices, which BBG said it will implement.

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