Ten months ago, the United States began beaming government-produced TV broadcasts into Cuba via a Gulfstream jet in hopes of defeating the Cuban government's persistent efforts to jam the signal. But the programming still does not appear to be getting through well.
While a State Department draft report last month declared that the $10-million investment "appears to be paying off" in rising viewership, some Cuban immigrants and American broadcasting experts say that TV Marti can rarely be seen on the island.
"I saw it during a day with very good climatological conditions, but it still barely came through," said Efrain Ramos, 56, who arrived in Florida last month from Havana. Some immigrants from outside of Havana said they couldn't see it at all.
TV Marti was created by the United States 17 years ago to break Fidel Castro's grip on Cuba's media and offer Cubans an alternative to state-controlled programming. Its role was to be similar to the one played by Radio Free Europe in the Soviet bloc during the Cold War. The TV station costs U.S. taxpayers more than $20-million a year.
Its lineup includes news and discussion shows, comedies and a sports program.
TV Marti's signal was beamed from a blimp over the Florida Keys before it was destroyed in a hurricane in 2005. Now its signal is carried primarily by the Gulfstream jet, in addition to a C-130 airplane. Also, its newscasts are carried on a Miami station that can be seen by some in Cuba with contraband satellite dishes.
But unlike its older radio counterpart, which is now heard across the island, TV Marti has been jammed by the Cuban government since its inception in 1990, say American broadcasting experts.