If you aren’t familiar with Radio or TV Marti, it's OK. The international broadcaster's target audience is about 90 miles away in the Caribbean.
Geared towards native Cubans, the programming aims to broadcast news from the island and around the world in order to keep them abreast on the things that impact them the most.
But it's not an easy task.
“If we’re going to ask them to break the law, the programming better be good,” said Office of Cuba Broadcasts Director Carlos Garcia-Perez.
So management decided to scrap the old history lectures and blast the airwaves with a 1,000 kilowatts of practical and entertaining programming to attract younger audiences.
It may have only been on the air since January, but already Radio Martí’s “El Revoltillo,” or "The Scramble" in English, has captured the attention of Cubans on and off the island. The show acts as a promoter for natives trying to sell, rent, or swap everything from car parts to music lessons to a private investigator. All the while, the two lively hosts, Alfredo Jacomino and Karen Caballero, exchange comedic banter and toss in informative news briefs throughout the show.
“Through our focus groups, we found black market items were promoted on ‘Craigslist- like’ websites. So Since the government censors the Internet, we thought, let’s provide information on the Internet, through the radio, on our show,” says Garcia- Perez.
Sites such as revolico.com
often receive posts from Cubans through their stateside relatives or if they happen to be visiting the U.S.
The shows hosts print out the posts in case the Cuban government decides to block the website while they’re on air, and advertise to eager listeners everyday with the contact information of the seller or buyer.
Emails, phone calls, and tweets proclaim it’s a certified hit. Website views have jumped from 600 to an average of 3,900 hits per day.
And there’s so much more in store.
Garcia-Perez brings a fresh perspective to the industry. There’s no hidden agenda, there’s just one goal: Keep them informed and make them want to listen.
El Revoltillo” is one of the shows that air live, contributing to the stations 13-and-a-half live hours a day. Taking live calls and responding to live concerns is making what they have to say relevant to Cubans and what will hopefully lead to more success—and greater audiences.
“We try to reach them however we can because the change in Cuba is going to come from our audience,” says Garcia-Perez
One half of the dynamic hosts, Karen Caballero, says the feedback shows people there are fighting the limitations and their show is playing a role in that.
“[We show] It’s OK to have free access to the Internet. it’s OK to buy and sell in the free market,.” she said.
Meanwhile, Garcia-Perez said the Martí mission is not to get involved in what is being sold or bought, only “to enable the free flow of information that is relevant and necessary to our audience”.