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Highlights

For more than two decades, the U.S. government has been broadcasting to Cuba to break the Cuban government's information blockade and promote democracy in Cuba. Over this period, questions have been raised regarding the quality and effectiveness of these broadcasts. GAO was asked to examine (1) the Office of Cuba Broadcasting's (OCB) broadcasting approach and what is known about its audience; (2) how the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)--which oversees U.S. government broadcasting--and OCB ensure compliance with journalistic principles; (3) steps taken to ensure adherence to domestic and international broadcasting laws, agreements, and standards; and (4) steps BBG and OCB have taken to address management challenges. GAO analyzed documentation related to strategic planning, audience research, oversight, and operations and interviewed officials from BBG, BBG's International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB), OCB, State, and other agencies.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
U.S. Agency for Global Media 1. To assist decisionmakers and improve OCB's strategy, the Broadcasting Board of Governors should conduct an analysis of the relative success and return on investment of broadcasting to Cuba, showing the cost, nature of the audience, and challenges--such as jamming and competition--related to each of OCB's transmission methods. The analysis should also include comprehensive information regarding the media environment in Cuba to better understand the extent to which OCB broadcasts are attractive to Cubans.
Closed - Not Implemented
According to BBG, it has stopped conducting the telephone surveys discussed in GAO's 2009 report. As a result, BBG lacks quantitative data to assess the size of its audience in Cuba. Without such data, it is not possible for BBG to assess the relative success or return on investment for each of OCB's transmission methods.
U.S. Agency for Global Media 2. To assist decisionmakers and improve OCB's strategy, the Broadcasting Board of Governors should coordinate the sharing of information among U.S. agencies and grantees regarding audience research relating to Radio and TV Marti.
Closed - Not Implemented
As of July 2013, the BBD said that is only producing qualitative data related to Cuba broadcasting. BBG said that it does not generally share its qualitative reports outside of the agency, in part given their limited utility to other users.
U.S. Agency for Global Media 3. To improve OCB operations, the Broadcasting Board of Governors should direct IBB to enhance guidance and training for analysts performing program reviews.
Closed - Implemented
In commenting on a draft of GAO's report, the Broadcasting Board of Governors concurred with GAO's recommendations. As a result, in April 2010, IBB provided a five day training course to enhance IBB program analysts' ability to review OCB programming. Also, in October 2010, IBB provided program analysts with amplified guidance that outlines six criteria analysts should use when conducting a program review.
U.S. Agency for Global Media 4. To improve OCB operations, the Board of Governors should direct OCB to provide training to OCB staff regarding journalistic standards.
Closed - Implemented
The Broadcasting Board of Governors and Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) took three actions: (1) In 2009, OCB employees received training on the Voice of America Charter and journalistic code. (2) In 2009, OCB contracted with a private contractor to provide additional media training. (3) OCB management has also sponsored a series of brown bag seminars on effective journalism.
U.S. Agency for Global Media 5. To improve OCB operations, the Board of Governors should direct IBB to develop guidance and take steps to ensure that political and other inappropriate advertisements are not shown during OCB broadcasts.
Closed - Implemented
The IBB's Office of Contracts now puts a standard clause in every solicitation for satellite services that prohibits political or other inappropriate advertisements during broadcasts. It also states that all content should adhere to FCC requirements.
U.S. Agency for Global Media 6. To improve OCB operations, the Board of Governors should direct OCB to establish formal mechanisms for disseminating information to and obtaining views from employees to help improve communication and morale.
Closed - Implemented
According to Broadcasting Board of Governors, in 2011, the new Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) Director and Station Manager have taken several actions, including holding frequent staff meetings, assigning the OCB Staff Director with responsibility for staying in touch with employees and fostering two-way communication with them, opening programming focus groups to managers, and maintaining an "open door" policy where employees can reach out to them at any time.

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