Why are no radios sold in Cuba?
Last week, on the occasion of the regime’s celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Radio Rebelde station, the Mesa Redonda, or Round Table on Cuban TV devoted two programs to the topic of radio in Cuba.
In the first program journalists and radio technicians spoke about the programming, the outlook in the country for this media format and, of course, sang the praises of the work done by Radio Rebelde, the station that since that February 24, 1958 has remained loyal to Castroism.
The second program was to answer questions posed by viewers. Perhaps contrary to what the panelists of the Round Table expected, many of the questions were not related to the topics discussed on the first day. Rather, viewers inquired about why radios are not currently sold in the country’s shopping centers.
The panelists, reluctantly, had to recognize that the investments made to create more municipal stations, and to strengthen the programming of the four national radio stations are good for little when more than half of Cuban homes do not even have a radio, or, if they have one of the few around, it is in poor condition.
The Round Table also discussed the difficulties faced by people who tune into radio stations using their cell phones, which only provides access to FM programming, such that they miss everything in AM.
So, what was the response by the panelists, and Randy Alonso, in his role as the moderator of that program, in response to the viewers’ concerns? Well, they washed their hands of them, like Pontius Pilate, and said they would convey the problem to the Ministry of Domestic Trade (MINCIN).
According to figures from the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), since 2011, when 70,000 units were made, no radios have been manufactured in Cuba. This reality is noticeable, as there are no radios in stores on the island, regardless of whether they accept national currency or convertible pesos, or CUC.
It is striking that radios are not being imported to meet demand in the population. It is true that the external finances of the nation are in a precarious state, but the country still imports a certain number of fans, air conditioners, stereos and other household appliances. Obviously, the Cuban authorities are hardly interested in Cubans owning radios.
Perhaps the television panelists and Randy Alonso should be advised not to waste their time bothering the MINCIN about the shortage, because the problem seems to transcend questions of commerce.
Everything suggests that those in the upper echelons of power do not want Cubans freely accessing the information by tuning in to shortwave radio stations, especially in rural areas where there is little access to the Internet, in this way evading the media monopoly imposed by Castroism.
In the context of this media monopoly, there has been the interference suffered for years by Radio Martí and TV Martí and, more recently the block imposed on several digital publications on the Web.
It is sad to see how these veteran followers of Castroism, who today boast of how they struggled to listen to Radio Rebelde broadcasts from the Sierra Maestra, are now quick to support the government’s efforts to prevent young Cubans from tuning into to shortwave stations offering news that the top leadership wants to hide.