[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Air Marti (UPDATE)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Air Marti (UPDATE)

In a story published in El Nuevo Herald (and NOT published in The Miami Herald, BTW), Rui Ferreira tells us about the latest attempt by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting to bring its programming to Cuban homes.

UPDATE: The Miami Herald published their version of the story the following day here.

Looks like this one will be much harder for the Cuban regime to foil.

Article translated by yours truly.
First it was Radio Martí, then TV Martí, and now we have Air Martí. The last incorporation of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) is a modern, twin-engine Gulfstream G-1 plane, through which it attempts to bring Cubans all the action from the World Series and to begin broadcasting its programming in prime time.

With the plane, whose inaugural flight left yesterday from Key West, the federal government is pursuing to avoid the electronic interference that the Cuban government has maintained against the TV and radio transmissions since the early 1990s.

"The transmission from this modern and totally equipped airplane represents an opportunity for TV Martí to fulfill its mission of breaking the information blockade imposed by the Cuban dictatorship, offering live to the Cuban people accurate and objective news as well as high-quality programming at this crucial moment in Cuba's history", Pedro Roig, director of OCB, said yesterday in a discreet ceremony in Key West, according to a press release.

The terms of agreement for the plane's service to OCB include renting flight hours with a company called Phoenix Air, and will fly six days a week in prime time between 6 PM and 11 PM. Roig added in a conversation to El Nuevo Herald that, for the first time, the airplane has the capability to make live transmissions, unlike the previous aerial platform which only had the capabilitycity to transmit recorded programming.

The renting of an airplane for OCB transmissions was a process that dragged on for over five years, and involved innumerable negotiations in Congress, where the State Dwpartment and the Department of Defense competed for the use of the previous aerial platform, a Hercules C-130 called "Comando Solo" belonging to the Pentagon.

OCB managed the obtain the committment to obtain its own airplane after the White House gave the green light to the include the necessary funding for the acquisition in last year's budget.

Initially, the idea was to buy an airplane, but at the last minute OCB chose to rent flight hours in the current aircraft, with eyes set on renting a second plane in the near future.

"Our additional budget of $10 million not only enabled us to obtain the equipment currently on board the airplane, but also to rent the flight hours, including a second plane soon", added Roig.

The annual cost of operation by taxpayers for the two transmitting airplanes is $5 million.

According to Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the start of daily trasmisiones in prime time and the renting of the airplanes "was a promise by President Bush that, with his aid, could be included in the budget. The moment could not be more favorable for this new technology in order to break the information blockade of the Cuban tyranny".

In agreement with international law, the Gulfstream will have to fly within American airspace, where it will catch the satellite signals transmitted by TV Martí and turn them into a UHF signal destined for the island. In the past, the Cuban government has complained that "Commando Solo" made transmissions from international waters, adjacent with the Cuban airspace, but have not contributed details to these complaints.

The plane -- whose identification number N820CB curiously matches the year in which the Reagan administration approved the creation of Radio Martí as well as the initials of the federal organization responsible for transmissions to the island -- has 4 TV transmitters installed with a total power of 4,500 watts.

The footprint of the transmissions is mainly oriented towards the western part of Cuba, stated OCB.


Blogger Alex said...

It made it to the Herald, one day afterwards (check my post at SoTP). BTW, I shamelessly ripped off your post title.

2:32 PM, October 26, 2006  

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