And once baseball season begins, Cubans will watch highlights by Aroldis Chapman, Yoenis Cespedes and other Cuban stars whose names disappeared from official media after their defection, even as fans continue to pass news of their exploits in Major League Baseball by word of mouth.
‘‘Telesur is something completely novel for us,’’ said Felipa Martinez, a 68-year-old retired government office worker. ‘‘What’s also valuable is that you can stay current on international events.’’
As with the recent law making it easier for Cubans to travel abroad, the government apparently is betting that familiarity with the outside world won’t make people pushier about demanding political change or material goods.
‘‘Putting Telesur (on air) is a challenge that the government has accepted,’’ analyst and former Cuban diplomat Carlos Alzugaray told The Associated Press in Havana.
Telesur broadcasts every day in Cuba from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and again from 8 p.m. until it goes dark sometime after midnight. Cuba has carried the channel before, but only for two hours a day and with a delay that presumably let it avoid any objectionable content.
It’s practically the only media available to most Cubans that’s not filtered through the government. All newspapers and airwaves are state-controlled and carry the same dry content. Internet access is not widely available in Cuba, and foreign magazines and newspapers are nonexistent. U.S. government-funded Radio Marti and TV Marti broadcasts beamed at the island are mostly jammed by Cuba, and reception is spotty at best.
Some Cubans have had some increasing access to outside media in recent years. Hundreds of camouflaged, illegal dishes on rooftops capture satellite channels from Florida. Workers at hotels and foreign businesses can glimpse a cable service that offers foreign programming in Spanish, English, a handful of other European tongues and even Chinese.
Purveyors of pirated DVDs with the latest Hollywood movies and seasons of ‘‘CSI’’ are not only tolerated but licensed and regulated. Reruns of ‘‘Desperate Housewives’’ have become a mainstay on the open airwaves.
President Raul Castro has urged Cuban journalists to elevate the quality and creativity of their reporting, though there have been few examples of any newfound independence as yet.
Alzugaray, the former diplomat, said Telesur could provide an example for local reporters and their Communist Party-conscious bosses and help them shed the long-held mentality that it’s risky to be too inquisitive.
‘‘It’s a different model of journalism, a model that many of us are demanding from Cuban journalism,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a way of saying, ‘Well, we can have revolutionary politics and still have discussion and diversity.'’’
Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP