TV, Radio Marti Cover Cuban Embassy Re-Opening From Distance

The re-opening of the U.S. embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961 was big news Friday, but for Radio and TV Marti, the U.S.-funded broadcast services that have been delivering news into the closed country for decades, the event was still closed.

"The International Press Center (CPI) (the agency in the Cuban Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that handled all press access) refused to credential any Martí journalists or independent journalists from Cuba," said BBG's Laurie Moy. "This left Cubans with few choices for information on the historic event." By contrast, CNN got "exclusive access" to the reopening.

But that didn't stop the Marti's from reporting it. According to Moy, Radio and TV Marti broke into regular programming with live coverage of the raising of the flag over the embassy and later for the joint press conference with Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez. The Martis provided updates throughout the day.

There was also live streaming on the Web and social media updates and mobile phone push notifications via the Marti app.

Margarita Rojo and Amado Gil hosted the coverage from Radio Martí’s Studio C, while Voice of America’s Celia Mendoza and contributor Ivan Garcia Quintero reported from Havana, according to BBG's Laurie Moy.

The Martis also put the event in context, providing background on how relations between the countries broke down over Cuba's ties to the USSR and Cuban appropriation of U.S. companies. They also profiled the three marines who originally took down the flag and were invited to the reopening.

So, with U.S. and Cuba relations reestablished, is the need for a U.S. government-backed service to get news to the country diminished?

"[I]t remains as important as ever," she said. "Changes in the relationship between the United States and Cuba may have resulted in a relaxation on travel and trade restrictions, but they have not diminished the censorship and media control on the island."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.