Below item kindly provided by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, in response to Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review citation of Mr. Layfield's commentary
December 20, 2011
Mr. John Layfield
c/o Caley Cronin
Fox Business News
Dear Mr. Layfield:
Next time you’re fishing for bonefish in the Florida Keys, please be assured that any transmission balloon you see is not broadcasting programming of the Martis. U.S. sponsored broadcasting to Cuba through Radio and TV Marti stopped transmitting via aerostat in 2005.
The current budget for the Office of Cuba Broadcasting is about $28 million -- less than half the $60 million figure you cited. And we do not treat Cuba “differently than every regime in the world.” US international broadcasting – now in 58 languages, reaching 187 million people weekly around the globe -- focuses much of its attention on exactly that – “regimes” that deny their populations basic human rights including the free flow of information and participation in the political process. Cuba is among the most repressive of these regimes, and its people deserve the efforts OCB makes to provide them the accurate information they need to inform their daily lives about their country, their leadership, and events around the world.
Just as communications efforts to the Soviet bloc were jammed during the Cold War, many regimes continue to attempt to block information flows through radio, television, the Internet, and mobile devices. During the Cold War, information from VOA and RFE/RL leaked through the Iron Curtain. Today, information from OCB finds its way to audiences by radio, satellite, email, and the Internet. None of these delivery systems is perfect. The Cuban Government seeks to block each of them. But our information reaches the island, supports the work of Cuban bloggers and dissidents, and is shared via DVDs, thumb drives, and other devices. How do we know this? First and foremost because the Cuban people are telling us so, in a steady stream of phone calls and emails from the island. It is true that the repressive environment in Cuba is not conducive to market surveys performed by the USG. Cubans are unlikely to answer a cold phone call and admit that they listen to the Martis, banned by the Cuban government. And among the 17% of Cubans who are lucky enough to own phones, many are government officials more likely to support government censorship efforts. Qualitative research consistently suggests widespread fear of acknowledging use of foreign media or of illegal reception methods. Without having the ability to do on-the-ground surveys, BBG has few options to produce a credible survey that would reflect Cuban listenership.
Still, we are not operating in an information vacuum. BBG’s Office of Research continues to study and test alternative approaches to measuring reach in telephone surveys, with pilot questions on other surveys and in qualitative research with Cubans recently arrived in the U.S.
BBG has conducted several waves of surveys of Cubans recently-arrived to South Florida, along with expanded qualitative studies (focus groups, monitoring panels) to explore their experiences in using foreign media, and specifically Radio and TV Martí, as well as their views of the Martís’ unique value and programming. While these studies cannot be used to estimate behaviors among mass publics in Cuba, they do indicate use of Radio and TV Martí at levels higher than appeared in the 2008 phone survey.
Eager to have news and information that they can’t get from local media sources, audiences are willing to listen through the jamming and brave the danger of listening to stations that are illegal in Cuba. Their efforts are something akin to climbing Mt. Everest. We understand and value their compulsion to climb.
Carlos A. Garcia-Perez
Office of Cuba Broadcasting