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The Children of the Satellite Dish, Bypassing Ideology in Cuba

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Parabolica Cubana

For World Telecommunication and Information Society Day

They look the same as everyone else: small, restless, ready to play and joke, like any child. But something distinguishes them beyond the neighborhood where they live or the family they belong to. They are part of a generation that is escaping the indoctrination of the official media because they have taken refuge in illegal television programming. They are "the children of the satellite dish," the direct consumers of the programming on these satellite dishes, as widespread as they are persecuted. When the teacher asks them, in the classroom, what they saw on the news the day before, they are the ones who look at the ceiling and invent some response. But when they interact among themselves, they all know the name of the trendy host in Florida or who won the latest Nuestra Belleza Latina contest.

There are no clear studies of how many people on the Island access these banned channels. It is difficult to calculate because it is a topic little spoken of in public, for fear of confiscations and fines; but also because it's enough for one family to have one of these satellite dishes to pass the signal via cable to a dozen, a score, or 50 neighboring homes. The most daring have installed the cable under the streets, pretending they were making an authorized repair because of some broken pipe. The principle owner of the persecuted artifact is the one who decides the programming that all subscribers then see on their respective screens. The monthly price is around 10 dollars, although some can have the service for free, especially the neighborhood informers, to buy their silence.

However, beyond these technical details of how such an illegality is committed, the most interesting thing is the sociological phenomenon it is generating. Many Cubans of the younger generations -- particularly in the capital -- barely watch national television. They have escaped the ideological dose of this portal and have replaced it with a more frivolous but less politicized assortment. Among this TV audience are many children, for whom the effect of the slogans and official campaigns is detrimental. They are the children of the satellite dish, breastfed with the illicit and used to the other side of information or misinformation. They have grown up with the remote control in their hands and, with a simple click, they access the prohibited every day.

P.S.: "It makes no sense to prohibit" the circulation of news, because it is "an almost impossible chimera," because people "know it." "Today the news is everywhere, the good, the bad, the manipulated and the true, the half-truths, circulating on the networks, reaching the people, people know it, and the worse thing is silence," the official told a conference of educators -- according to a television report from a few days ago about the words of Miguel Diaz-Canel, first vice president of Cuba.

Another post on this topic: Satellite vs. TELEsur