Reagan signs Radio Marti bill


WASHINGTON -- President Reagan signed legislation Tuesday to set up Radio Marti, a government radio station that will beam U.S. programming to Cuba.

The station, a pet project of Reagan's, won final congressional approval 302-109 in the House last week when a compromise was reached making the station part of the Voice of America and requiring it to use a government broadcast frequency instead of a commercial frequency.


The Senate passed the bill, authorizing $14 million in 1984 and $11 million in 1985 for the station, in September after the National Association of Broadcasters endorsed the compromise.

The measure also includes a one-time authorization of $5 million for compensation to broadcasters who may experience interference problems as a result of electronic jamming from Cuba.

Radio Marti, named for the Cuban patriot Jose Marti, will offer Spanish-language news and entertainment as well as WasOington's view of Cuba's economic and political conditions under Fidel Castro. It is modeled after Radio Free Europe.

Under the compromise, it will use the VOA broadcasting facilities at Marathon, Fla., and the 1180 kilohertz AM radio frequency now held by VOA.

The House had approved the station in August 1982, but the legislation then ran into a filibuster in the Senate by Midwestern senators concerned about Des Moines, Iowa, radio station WHO, with which it would have shared the 1040 kilohertz frequency.


Fidel Castro has promised to jam Radio Marti if it goes into operation. Three weeks after the House vote last year, Cuba fired a barrage of electronic distortion that interfered with at least five U.S. radio stations.

But Reagan remained firmly committed to the project, listing it as one of his five top foreign-policy initiatives when the 98th Congress convened last January. The Navy has erected four 250-foot transmission towers 12 miles north of Key West.

Congressional opponents noted Castro's promise to jam Radio Marti and also warned that Cuba is building a giant 500 kilowatt station, 10 times bigger than any in the United States, to broadcast to the United States. They argued such a station could interfere with U.S. broadcasting in 30 states.

The legislation takes Radio Marti out from under the Board of International Broadcasting, which has authority over Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, and puts it under the Voice of America as a separate 'Cuba Service.'

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