Business

Communications vacuum will take time, money to fill

It's about more than the money.

Radio, television and newspapers represent one of the most politically strategic sectors for the Cuban government -- and one of the least likely to go on the auction block in the near term.

"The Cuban media will re-emerge in terms of content, but the government will want to retain control as long as it can, " says John Kavulich, senior policy advisor to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

But that doesn't stop entrepreneurs on this side of the Florida Strait from eyeing the island's media properties, which include several TV networks, 16 regional TV stations, more than 70 radio stations, three daily national newspapers, a weekly financial paper and two wire services.

Former radio and TV executive José Cancela has already formed a company, Sunrise Communications, which is backed by a pool of almost $1 billion in pledges from investors interested in the media industry.

If media properties ever go up for sale, they're likely to fetch a lot of attention, especially from those already involved in Spanish-language media in the United States, Latin America and Spain.

Entering the business may not be straightforward, though.

Historical ownership could be an issue. Many media properties were confiscated by the government from private hands and buyers could find themselves in a legal battle over prior rights claims.

And investors would have to wait until a consumer-based economy emerges that would give rise to advertising revenue.

"It would take pretty deep pockets to last the growth curve, " said Julio Rumbaut, a Hispanic media consultant in Miami. "But anyone in media would want to be in a new market."

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