Cuba’s state-run television broadcaster will start a 24-hour channel with mostly foreign content in a move to provide Cuban audiences with more variety.
The Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, ICRT, made the announcement on Wednesday at a conference of the Cuban writers and artists guild, where intellectuals have criticized the poor television programming in the socialist state.
The opening up to additional foreign content on television comes at a time when Cuba’s new President Raul Castro, who succeed his ailing brother Fidel Castro, has begun lifting what he has called “excessive prohibitions” in the country.
Since becoming Cuba’s first new leader in almost half a century, his government has allowed Cubans to buy cellular phones, DVD players and computers, and stay at tourist hotels reserved for foreigners.
ICRT vice president Luis Acosta said the new channel will have content from a dozen countries, but he did not give details.
Cuba has five channels that are all run by the state. One of them, Cubavision International, can only be seen over cable television. It broadcasts official Cuban news and culture to the world 24 hours a day.
Cuban cable TV distributed in Havana and at beach resort hotels includes three Chinese channels.
Cuban television frequently broadcasts American films. Many are pirated, even though their sale to Cuba is not banned by U.S. trade sanctions in place since 1962 against the communist government.
Many Cubans watch satellite television, such as DirectTV, on illegal dishes that allow them to see Spanish-language channels in Miami, the heart of the large Cuban exile community in the United States.
(Reporting by Rosa Tania Valdes, Editing by Anthony Boadle and Sandra Maler)