TV and Radio Martí plagued by “bad journalism,” “ineffective propaganda,” report says

TV Martí studios in Doral, Florida
TV Martí studios in Doral, Florida

Radio and TV Marti are plagued by “bad journalism” and “ineffective propaganda,” according to an internal audit requested by its supervisors at the U.S. Agency for Global Media.

The audit, made public Tuesday, followed a report on the station, branded as anti-Semitic, that described U.S. billionaire George Soros as a “non-practicing Jew of flexible morals.”

The auditors concluded that the stations, designed to broadcast unbiased news to Cuba, are “an anachronism.”

Radio and TV Marti are financed by the U.S. government, with Congress approving an annual budget of about $29 million.

“The problems are in the radio and television news programs, especially the daily and constant offerings of political debate and investigative programs. They are plagued by bad journalism. And they were also ineffective propaganda,” the audit noted.

The auditors added that the radio, television and online content of the Marti operations are far from meeting the ethical standards and declared mission of the stations: “a trusted and authorized source of precise, balanced and complete information for the Cuban people.”

Radio and TV Marti director Tomás Regalado acknowledged the results of the audit and told Radio Marti that “reforms will be put in place.”

“We’re going to put them in place because our mission is to inform the people of Cuba about what’s happening in Cuba and the world, as well as to create the road for democracy on the island. You will continue to receive precise information,” Regalado said.

He added that he and the stations were committed to delivering “balanced and precise” news to Cuba.

The audit was carried out by a group of hired independent experts who reviewed 20 hours of radio and television programming as well as 40 written reports from the Marti website. All the experts believe in liberal democracy and individual freedoms and none sympathizes with “the Cuban dictatorship,” the report said.

The report described the atmosphere at Radio and TV Marti as “hyper-partisan and emotional.”

“From the technical and aesthetic point of view, the quality of the production of Marti radio and television is mediocre. In a large majority of the radio programs bothersome background noise can be heard. On television, the quality of the camera work, lighting and graphics is irregular, which reflects an apparent lack of experience and professionalism,” said the audit. It concluded that “many of the productions appear to be obsolete and old, if not embarrassing.”

The broadcasters governed by the U.S. Agency for Global Media are legally banned from airing propaganda or becoming an instrument of the U.S. State Department. But the auditors found evidence of both in the Marti stations.

“Marti openly carries out propaganda and promotes the foreign policy of the current administration, in this case toward Cuba (as well as Venezuela and Nicaragua),” the report noted.

The audit also found that “the reports and interviews in the different investigative, analysis and debate programs are too long, repetitive and difficult to follow or understand” and become boring for audiences.

Many of the reports include no official sources or reflect only one point of view, it added. “There should be a broader variety of sources with different points of views … as required by the Marti standards,” it noted.

The report also questioned the Marti stations’ balance and impartiality and mentioned the example of a program devoted to the recent Trump Administration decision to enforce Titles III and IV of the Helms-Burton law. It interviewed Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who supported the decision, but no critics.

The interviewer came across as “an enthusiastic supporter” of the Trump administration policies toward Cuba and referred to the senior officials involved as “a dream team for Cuban policy.”

“Almost any criticism of the Cuban government and its leaders appears to be allowed on Martí, on radio, TV and online, day in and day out, in news commentary and shows and online reports throughout the day,” the report said. “Television appears to be the worst. The hosts and guests are so anti-Castro that their language is often raw.

The report also complained that opinion articles are not identified as such, and that the stations do not clearly identify the difference between staff journalists and outside collaborators.

In a plus for the stations, the auditors reported that they detected few factual errors, and that errors were usually corrected rapidly.

The investigators added that the Marti stations do not sufficiently cover “the political, geographic, cultural, ethnic, religious and social diversity in the United States and the rest of the world.

They also found that the journalists and analysts often referred to events that occurred in the 1960s but did not explain their context, even though more than 70 percent of all Cubans were born after 1959. “As such, the broadcasts have limited usefulness, even as part of a propaganda campaign to weaken support for the regime.”

The audit noted that the Marti coverage of Cuba may be explained by the fact that its staff comes largely from stations such as Radio Mambí, La Poderosa and WQBA, longtime anti-Castro voices in South Florida.

“Cuba today appears ready for change. But the Marti content is fundamentally inadequate for promoting a transition toward democracy,” the report declared.