Carl Hiaasen is not only a novelist, he’s a columnist for the Miami Herald. This controversial column about reporters being fired for writing for Radio & TV Marti ran today.
“Over the last five years, while staff reporter Pablo Alfonso wrote columns and covered Cuba for El Nuevo Herald, he was getting paid nearly $175,000 to host programs on Radio and TV Martí. During that same period, staff writer Wilfredo Cancio collected almost $15,000.
The fact that it took so long to catch them tells you how puny the audience is. You’ve heard of Pirate Radio? This is Pipsqueak Radio.
Both TV and Radio Martí broadcast from a blimp in the Lower Keys until it was popped by a hurricane last year. Then a plane from the Pennsylvania National Guard was procured to transmit to Cuba for a whopping four hours on weekends.
Now the programs are being beamed by a specially equipped private aircraft flying out of Key West. After Fidel Castro underwent surgery, the broadcasts were increased to six times a week, but even that failed to kill off the Cuban leader.
Some parts of the island do pick up transmissions from Radio Martí, though interviews with recent arrivals indicate that its listenership has dipped.
As for TV Martí, it’s basically a ghost station that few in Cuba can receive because of the electronic jamming. Since it began ”broadcasting” in 1990, TV Martí has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $125 million. Naturally, Congress keeps shoveling money at it.
Getting paid to say snarky things about Castro would be an easy gig. For years I’ve done it for free, characterizing El Comandante as a windbag, geezer, liar, despot and all-around phony. I never received a dime from Uncle Sam, even when my columns were properly punctuated.
Party poopers! Do they really believe that a journalist’s integrity can be compromised for a lousy $175,000? Where’s the trust? Where’s the compassion? More important, where’s my damn check?