The federal government is dealing with fierce budget deficits — and budget cuts, but did you know tens of millions of your tax dollars are being spent each year to put on a TV show?
On a back road, which doesn’t appear on maps, we found a stark looking fortress. A chain link fence surrounds the outside. The windows are covered.
The U.S. government is putting on a TV show — one that not everyone likes. Its called T.V. Marti. There’s also radio Marti.
Taxpayers are paying for funded broadcasts in Cuba. The are paying for the lights, the cameras and the action.
The U.S., 46 years into its diplomatic war with Fidel Castro, is beaming news, talk shows, even anti-Castro comedy skits to the Cuban people. Hoping to inspire anti-Castro activists.
“Transition from communism to democracy is a very difficult and complicated process. So we expect to have a very crucial role in that moment of history in Cuba,” said TV/radio broadcaster Clara Dominguez.
They work with state-of-the-art equipment and in some cases brand new digital radio and TV equipment. It costs about $27 million a year to operate TV and radio Marti.
But there’s one big catch, they’re not sure anyone’s watching.
For years, Castro has scrambled TV Marti’s signal and punished those caught tuning in. Plus, critics said Cubans are now bored with the programming.
“It has a declining audience… And it just doesn’t work. It’s such blatant propaganda that people understand that this just isn’t reality,” said Larry Birns from council on Hemispheric Affairs.
Overcoming Castro’s jamming techniques is costly, TV Marti flies military jets over the Florida Keys and uses them to relay the signal.
They fly five hours a night. Every night!
The cost to taxpayers is $5.9 million a year. TV Marti’s director said it’s worth it — that Cuba’s underground democratic activists are watching and learning.
“The Cuban government reacts extremely strongly to what we do. That to us is a true measure of effectiveness. If we weren’t being effective, they wouldn’t say a word. They’d just keep quiet and let it happen. But they are truly scared of what we do. What they do will likely become much more expensive soon. They’ll expand operations to 24 hours a day when Castro dies. And bring in a 160 person staff,” said Alberto Mascaro from Office of Cuba Broadcasting.