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Cuba to Expand TV Content in Latest Reform


Cuba's government says it will launch a new television station including foreign-produced content. The move is the latest in a series of changes aimed at easing restrictions and increasing economic activity on the island. VOA's Brian Wagner has this report from Miami.

Cuban officials announced plans for the new 24-hour television channel at a conference of writers and artists in Havana. Intellectuals at the event called for the Communist government to embrace new technologies and expand access for cultural and artistic expression to Cubans.

The move would create a new channel on Cuba's television airwaves, which are dominated by official speeches, political discussion shows and old American movies.

Rafael Lima, professor at the University of Miami School of Communication, says Cuba is showing signs of relaxing its tight control over information on the island.

"Information is one of the things dictatorships like to control," Lima said. "And now here are these reforms, where that sort of information, the control of that information is being relaxed."

Lima says other reforms, such as easing ownership of cell phones, computers and other electronics, will further enable Cubans to reach out in ways that have long been restricted.

Cuba's government also lifted a ban on Cubans staying at tourist hotels across the island. Some Cuban-Americans say the measures are only intended at generating more revenue for state-controlled businesses.

In Miami, Carmen Lopez says Cuban exiles are under greater pressure now to send U.S. dollars to help family and friends pay for consumer goods.

Lopez says Cuban-Americans will begin sending more money to family on the island, which will not lead to needed changes, such as free and fair elections.

Analysts say the reforms will have limited impact across Cuba, especially for many residents unable to afford electronics or $150 nightly rates at a tourist hotel.

Jonathan Benjamin-Alvarado is a political science professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

"It is not going to improve the quality of life for all Cubans, but for some it will," he said. "And perhaps it also increases the hopes and aspirations of many others."

Benjamin-Alvarado says the reforms are significant, especially because they demonstrate that Cuba's government under Raul Castro is prepared to change. He says the government has been under public pressure for greater access to personal liberties and material goods. The question is if Cuban leaders have more reform plans to satisfy those demands.

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