Thursday, April 03, 2008

Cuba TV to show foreign content, add 24-hour channel

MSNBC and Reuters
Cuba TV to show foreign content
Few details offered, but move follows other reforms opening up country
updated 12:29 p.m. PT, Thurs., April. 3, 2008

HAVANA - Cuba's state-run television broadcaster says it plans to launch a 24-hour channel with mostly foreign content in a move to provide Cuban audiences with more variety.

The Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, ICRT, made the announcement Wednesday at a conference of the Cuban writers and artists guild, where intellectuals have criticized the poor quality of television programming in the socialist state.

The welcoming of more foreign content to Cuban TV comes at a time when Cuba's new president, Raul Castro, who succeeds his ailing brother, Fidel, has begun lifting what he has called "excessive prohibitions" in the country.

Since becoming Cuba's first new leader in almost half a century, Raul Castro's government has allowed Cubans to buy cellular phones, DVD players and computers, and stay at tourist hotels previously reserved for foreigners.

ICRT vice president Luis Acosta said the new channel will feature content from a dozen countries, but he did not give details.

Cuba has five channels that are all run by the state. One of them, Cubavision International, can only be seen over cable television. It carries official Cuban news and culture to the world 24 hours a day.

Cuban cable TV distributed in Havana and at beach resort hotels includes three Chinese channels.

Cuban television frequently broadcasts American films. Many are pirated, even though their sale to Cuba is not banned by U.S. trade sanctions imposed since 1962 against the communist government.

Many Cubans watch satellite television, such as DirectTV, on illegal dishes that allow them to see Spanish-language channels in Miami, the heart of the large Cuban exile community in the United States.

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