Cuba’s slick TV channel that supports ‘more revolution’
By Will Grant
Cuba correspondent, BBC News
23 April 2017
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Slick new graphics, drum and bass theme music and young presenters: at
least in its presentation, Cuba’s latest state television channel is a
break with the past.
Called Canal Caribe, it is an attempt to stand out from the stiffly
presented, heavily scripted newscasts that have aired on state TV for
The channel is trying out different formats. They include live link-ups
with international correspondents via Skype and the use of social media
sites like Twitter – simple devices that are common on most other news
channels but new for Cuban TV.
The channel’s news director, Ovidio Cabrera, showed me around the station.
As one of the founders of another left-wing Latin American news service,
the Venezuelan-funded Telesur, he says this new venture will be unique
in Cuba because it will run outside the fixed midday and early-evening
“The key difference is that this will be a news and information channel
that’s on air for 18 hours a day,” says Mr Cabrera.
“And the vast majority of our coverage, around two-thirds, will be live.”
A live, round-the-clock television news channel might not sound
particularly innovative, but in Cuba such changes happen slowly.
The state-run newspaper and mouthpiece of the Cuban Communist Party,
Granma, has barely changed its typeface in 50 years of revolution.
The question is whether editorially Canal Caribe will be any different
from other channels on the Communist-run island and if criticism will be
“This is a channel for more revolution,” says Mr Cabrera, immediately
squashing any suggestion that Canal Caribe will be anything less than
“We won’t shy away from criticising what isn’t working, from making
suggestions, from analysing and discussing social problems, but always
through the prism of supporting the revolutionary process, not against
it,” he explains.
The young journalists at Canal Caribe insist that, despite the
restrictions on them, they will report issues that matter to ordinary
“As an intern [working in state media] here, I was told a lot of rules I
found to be nonsense,” says news anchor Luis Miguel Cabrera in fluent
“And I’m really proud that I’ve experienced how those rules have been –
I can’t say ‘changed’ exactly – but certainly made more flexible.”
Not yet in his thirties, Mr Cabrera presents The World Now programme and
believes that Canal Caribe is evidence of changing media attitudes in Cuba.
“I have personally experienced that I could report the sort of issues
that one couldn’t do in the past. So I think that we have that
responsibility to push hard in order to change things that we don’t find
representative of what is going on, not only in Cuba but in the world as
That said, he is a realist and knows the editorial environment in which
“You have to keep in mind that this is a state-owned channel. But I
believe that we can responsibly show on TV what is going in Cuba and
what is representative of the Cuban people,” he says.
Change under way
The way Cubans are consuming their news is undoubtedly changing.
“I haven’t watched state TV in years”, a young music video producer
“I get all my information from the Weekly Package” he adds, referring to
an offline form of file-sharing in Cuba using hard-drives which is both
cheap and hugely popular.
There are also now about 100 public wi-fi spots dotted across the island
and most young people would rather pay for an hour of Internet access
than tune into the nightly news.
Canal Caribe may be the Cuban Government’s attempt to tackle that, but
they will find it hard to engage the island’s youth.
A pilot scheme has just ended to allow Internet connections in private
homes and theoretically should soon become more widely available.
One Cuban blogger, Ariel Montenegro, thinks the days of the Internet
being perceived as dangerous by the authorities may now be numbered.
“I don’t believe that the Cuban Government believes right now that the
Internet is bad and is going to be bad for the country and for the
revolution and for socialism and so on,” he says, sitting in a public
Although getting online is still slow and expensive, he says, he is
broadly optimistic about the future of the island’s connectivity.
Part of the Canal Caribe newsroom is a building site as they construct a
completely new set while inside the on-air studio, the young team of
journalists is preparing to broadcast live again.
In a rapidly changing media environment, the Cuban government is acutely
aware that the slogans of the past no longer appeal to many young people.
With a round-the-clock news channel, they are hoping to become more
relevant to their audience again while still delivering the same
Source: Cuba’s slick TV channel that supports ‘more revolution’ – BBC
News – www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-39631864
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