Taxpayers foot the bill, but are Cubans watching?

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The U.S. Agency for Global Media on Wednesday reported that its weekly audience rose to 345 million, up from 278 million in 2017, a 24 percent increase.
The report gives a snapshot of the radio, television and Internet audience of the agency’s five media outlets:

  • Voice of America
  • Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
  • Cuba Broadcasting, including Radio and TV Martí
  • Radio Free Asia
  • Middle East Broadcasting Networks

The agency, formerly called the Broadcasting Board of Governors, did not report the precise size of its audience in Cuba. Fiscal year 2017, which ended on Sept. 30, 2017, “was the first year in which USAGM was able to conduct a representative survey in Cuba and report an audience for OCB,” the agency said, citing “the historical limitations of reliable survey data in Cuba.”

Agency for Global Media graphic does not show exact size of audience in Cuba.

My guess is that Bendixen & Associates – now called Bendixen and Amandi International – conducted the survey.
The firm has experience in Cuba. In 2015, it carried out a national survey in Cuba for Univisión.
On July 26, 2016, the Broadcasting Board of Governors awarded $200,000 to Bendixen for public opinion polling in Cuba. The contract description cited “difficult research environments in Latin America.”
Some critics have said that Radio & TV Martí’s audience size in Cuba does not justify the hundreds of billions of tax dollars spent on the operation since Radio Martí was founded in 1985.
The network ought to release the public opinion survey numbers that are impossible to discern in the Wednesday’s report.
The Agency for Global Media has an easier time tracking the number of visitors to the Radio & TV Martí website.
The site had 580,040 visits and 1,543,685 page views in May 2015, for instance. An internal memo on the Martís’ digital media and social strategy stated:

Piramideo continues to grow, now connecting 663,274 Cubans on the island. (See “Beltway Bandit racks of $6.6 million“).
Martí Noticias Facebook page continues to attract more fans at a daily rate of 114 new followers daily. This equates to approximately 800 new followers each week, currently totaling 15,000 fans.
Our YouTube channel has more than doubled the # of views and visits in comparison to last year.
We continue to send our biweekly newsletter to 361,068 email recipients and more than 50,000 SMS texts with news headlines to cellphone users.

The U.S. and Cuba restored diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015. The Martís’ digital audience grew that month. According to an internal memo:

In July 2015 martinoticias.com had 723,021 visits that produced 1,802,201 Page Views. The average time spent on the site was 11 minutes and 36 seconds.

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