Radio, TV Marti chief resigns

Radio/TV Martí director
Pedro Roig resigned Friday after more than seven years at the head of the often
controversial US government stations that broadcast to Cuba.

“We have, most certainly,
achieved the goals of bringing the news and information denied by the communist
regime to the Cuban people,” Mr. Roig, a 69-year-old lawyer, wrote in his
resignation letter.

The twin stations have
spent an estimated $500 million over the years broadcasting news and
entertainment to Cuba, but they have been dogged by complaints of meagre
audiences, biased politics and journalism and cronyism.

Mr. Roig was not available
for comment Friday and there was no immediate word on who would replace him.

“I hereby submit my
resignation from the position of Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting
(OCB), effective Sept. 1, 2010 or at the Board’s timely convenience,” Mr. Roig
wrote.

Mr. Roig’s letter ticked
off a series of achievements under his watch, from increasing Radio Martí’s
signal strength to upgrading its website and adding satellite and airborne
transmission capabilities for television broadcasts.

An April-May survey of
Cubans interviewed within six months of their arrival in the United States
showed 43 percent said they had listened to Radio Martí and 6.5 percent said
they saw TV Martí, the letter added.

The letter was addressed
to Walter Isaacson, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the
government agency that supervises all US international broadcasters such as
Voice of America.

Speculation
he was fired

His resignation came a
week after Miami journalist Rui Ferreira wrote in his blog, Herejías y
Caipirinhas, that Mr. Roig had been fired.

Mr. Roig flatly denied
that report, but acknowledged to friends in private that he was burned out with
the job and the politics involved.

The twin stations have
been highly controversial since their founding — the radio in 1983 and
television in 1990 — as a way of getting information past the Cuban
government’s monopoly on news.

Cuba effectively jams TV
Martí over-the-air broadcasts, but the station also broadcasts by satellite,
and the radio transmits on AM as well as shortwave frequencies.

Some leading Cuban dissidents
sent Washington a letter early last year criticizing the stations’ programming
and complaining they were not covering opposition activities on the island well
enough.

“The programming is so bad
and so boring for the Cuban people that no one listens to it,” dissident
Vladimiro Roca, acting as spokesman for the group, told El Nuevo Herald at the
time.

US Congress members
critical of the broadcasts have long tried to cut back the station’s budget,
and in August of last year, Mr. Roig cut 35 jobs, or 22 per cent of his staff.

About 20 workers were
dismissed, and the other cuts came from voluntary departures and unfilled jobs.

A congressional report
published in early 2009 and based on a poll carried out by telephone from the
United States said less than 1 per cent of Cubans heard or watched the
transmission.

Mr. Roig shot back that
Cubans are too afraid of the government to talk openly on the phone about their
listening habits when it involves US government stations.

Several congressional
reports over the years have also complained that the stations did not adhere to
US or VOA standards of journalism and their broadcasts were too blatantly
political.

Noting that he arrived in
the United States in 1960 “as a young political exile from Cuba,” Mr. Roig wrote
in his resignation letter that he was “proud to have served the American
people, and I hope that my efforts at Radio and TV Martí have helped advance
the cause of freedom in my beloved Cuba.”

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