The TV buzzes in the room but nobody’s watching it. They leave it on for hours, ignoring it, like some scatterbrained family member. On the schedule it shows that in half an hour the crime show CSI will start, followed a little later by another very similar show called Jordan Forense. To relax a bit, on channel 21 there are the nice characters of Friends and a midnight movie made in the studios of 20th Century Fox. The young girl of the house doesn’t want to miss another episode of the Gilmore Girls, but dad fights for tuning into a Discovery Channel show about sharks. In the early morning, when the only ones awake are the guards, the thieves and the cats, they might show a rerun of the last season of Doctor House.
Our small screen has two distinctive marks: the extreme ideology of certain spaces, and the abundance of material stolen from foreign producers. A peculiar combination of fiery anti-imperialist discourse coexists with the constant broadcast of productions made in the country to the North. Films released just a few weeks ago to American audiences are broadcast here without paying a penny of royalties. Of course we, the audience, benefit from the rush of the Institute of Cuban Radio and Television (ICRT) to take from afar, but it leaves a bitter taste as we know that without this contraband we could not sustain our television programming.
To ease the hole into which local programming has fallen, especially the serials, soaps or participation programs, they take foreign labor while almost never compensating the creators or distributors. When pillage is institutionalized ,the calls for people to stop diverting state resources lose force; we can simply tune into a channel and see for ourselves proof of large-scale theft. To make matters worse, in an effort to hide their guilt, they place a dark band over the logo of the original station that aired the program, making the theft even more obvious. Often, on Saturday nights, they show films shot from the screen of a movie theater, where in the middle of the action it looks like someone from the audience got up to go to the bathroom, which prevents us from reading part of the dialog. The subtitles are made by an amateur, full of spelling errors – typical of copies downloaded from the Internet – you can even see it on programs of rather serious debate about cinematography.
What will happen if, in the near future, the country can’t continue behaving like a privateer, with no ethics in regards to the artistic creations of others? Are the ICRT officials already planning how to satisfy our appetites for TV without resorting to piracy? The solution, apparently, is to encourage national production, to let the TV generate revenues that will result in its improvement and in the ability to acquire broadcast rights. This latter might be incompatible with long hours of ideological discourse, with boring programs that no one likes but that they administer to us like an obligatory dose of indoctrination. Dynamic programming, attractive and within the framework of the law can’t be done from within the total nationalization of our media. Can’t they see that?