The Americas

Cuba tries to reboot its creaky state news apparatus

Cuban State Television and Radio employees work during the making of a news program at the headquarters in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, March 14, 2017.  The Cuban government is trying to reboot its Soviet-era style news programming with a high-definition current affairs channel staffed by young journalists, called the Caribe channel. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

Cuban State Television and Radio employees work during the making of a news program at the headquarters in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, March 14, 2017. The Cuban government is trying to reboot its Soviet-era style news programming with a high-definition current affairs channel staffed by young journalists, called the Caribe channel. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)  (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Cuban government is trying to reboot its Soviet-era style news programming with a high-definition current affairs channel staffed by young journalists.

The Caribe channel is starting slowly, with 3½ hours of offerings a night on a new channel available to a few hundred thousand viewers who have bought high-definition decoder boxes.

Producers say they hope to eventually expand to nearly round-the-clock programming. That's a niche currently occupied only by Telesur, a regional news channel financed by leftist Latin American governments.

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Caribe channel producers say their programming premiering Tuesday night will be less dogmatic and more openly critical than traditional Cuban state television, whose reporting rarely goes beyond repeating communiques from government ministries. Cuban state media are facing increasing competition from more widely available online sources as internet access expands.

"Now we're going to be able to reflect the needs of the people in the news," said Karina del Valle, a 24-year-old presenter on a Caribe current-affairs show.

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Like many of the country's state outlets, Caribe journalists will include many recent graduates eager to modernize official media that have become irrelevant to most young Cubans. But content remains almost entirely under the control of Communist Party ideological monitors and a crippling government cash shortage means the channel has few resources.

"Our great challenge is really making this a reality," said Ovidio Cabrera Garcia, director-general of Cuban television. "We don't want to create great expectations."