By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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Here is a map of the greater Havana area. The hash marks on the overlay indicate a 30-mile diameter. This is the area that can be jammed effectively with a 100-watt transmitter. It takes about 200 watts of power to yield the 100-watt signal. Members can see there is a little bit of area that is not quite covered, so maybe we need two jammers for a total of 400 watts. So for four light bulbs' worth of power, sad to say, the Castro government is able to completely kill this TV signal coming from the balloon over the Keys. While he is spending literally nickels and dimes on electricity to do this, we are spending about $25,000 a day wasting taxpayers' money sending invisible television to nowhere.
Nonetheless we did this VHF to UHF conversion and it was really no surprise that the signal still did not get through. Let me just give my colleagues some visual evidence that was elicited by one of our own government technicians who went down to Cuba to check on what was going on technically. This is a picture of the TV Marti logo when it came on the air on Channel 64 while this USIA technician was monitoring signals. A couple of minutes later, once the jamming signal was put on the air by Castro's people, this was the jammed picture that came through. Likewise, sometimes we use a different channel. This is what Channel 50 of TV Marti looks like when the jamming is in place. There has been a survey done by the U.S. Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy where we have our presence in Havana showing that virtually no one sees this new UHF signal.
Now, there is some suggestion that this is still a bargain. Let me just tell members, compared to the costs of our other international broadcasting efforts, TV Marti is not only a waste of money because the signal does not get through but it's also a very, very rich program in terms of our costs of producing an hour that we put on the air.
As members can see, for each hour of programming by comparable efforts, Radio Marti 8 to 11 employees; Radio Free Asia, 8 to 15; Voice of America, 1.3. A real bargain. Just to give members a television comparison, C-SPAN, about 9 employees. TV Marti, in order to get one hour of programming on the air, takes 40.6 employees.
There are other costs as well. Right now we have one balloon flying over the Keys for this purpose and for air interdiction, drug interdiction purposes. The National Security Council has decided that we will risk a hole in our air defenses by letting this one aerostat balloon instead be used on TV Marti. As I said, we have already spent $110 million on this. If we fully fund it again, we will have gone to about $120 million. This is simply a classic example of a failed program. Supporters of this program say it will be a propaganda victory for the Castro regime if we eliminate it. I have got to believe that it is a much bigger victory for the American taxpayer if we stop this kind of waste.
MR. JAMES MORAN (D-VIRGINIA): Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Skaggs). It just boggles the mind how with all the priorities that we have in this country, that we would be spending millions and millions of dollars to maintain a system that serves no real function other than perhaps a political one.
It really is a scandal. I think the only reason that it continues is that most taxpayers just have no idea that this is going on. They have no idea of the facts. They trust the Congress is going to do the right thing with their tax money. But I cannot imagine any objective observer, any average taxpayer would want their money wasted in such a scandalous fashion as it is with TV Marti, where there is no audience, where there is an enormous amount of overhead, and where no advertiser would ever purchase time because there is no audience to this thing. And yet we are spending millions and millions and millions of dollars, apparently for some political purpose but certainly not for any objective public policy purpose.
MR. HAROLD ROGERS (R-KENTUCKY): Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition. The gentleman from Colorado, a friend and member of our subcommittee who has served so well in this Congress and in our subcommittee, has led a long and determined effort to kill funding for TV Marti.
This is the most recent chapter of a long book, and the gentleman is to be commended for, if nothing else, his persistence and a well-reasoned argument. This year the bill includes $9.4 million for TV Marti, which represents a continuation of just basic funding. The gentleman's amendment would delete the entire amount.
Despite the continuing difficulties that the gentleman cites in TV Marti, terminating this program, Mr. Chairman, is not the answer. Termination is not the answer. Providing accurate and objective news, as we know, helped bring about change in the former Soviet Union as well as Eastern Europe, and we are now broadcasting, as we all know, for the first time into Asia and other parts of the world. It can play the same role in China and in Cuba as well.