Tonight, Matt Frei will anchor “BBC World News America” from Cuba, a rare opportunity for an American based-newscast. TVNewser spoke with “World News America” EP Rome Hartman about the special broadcast, something he and BBC News’ Kevin Bakhurst have been working on since last year.
“It’s something we’d talked about for months,” said Hartman, former EP of “CBS Evening News.” “I think that Cuba has long been the subject of great fascination, and that applies whether your working at BBC or CBS,” he said. “This seemed like the right stretch of time to take stock of the Cuba-America relationship.”
There’s a reason live newscasts from Cuba are rare, and Hartman admits that travel restrictions and the embargo “add complexity to the issue” of broadcasting from the country, even for an international news organization like the BBC.
“Having someone on the ground helps obviously, because he can talk to government officials,” adds Hartman, pointing out that BBC correspondent Michael Voss is permanently stationed in Havana. “I think clearly, the Cubans know that we are committed to covering Cuba as an ongoing story.”
Hartman recalls that Dan Rather was particularly passionate about reporting on Cuba, but says that “all of the American networks including CBS paid less attention to Cuba in recent years.”
When asked what he hopes to get out of his team’s two days there, Hartman says, “Best case scenario? Matt gets a call from Fidel Castro: ‘Matt, come on over. Grab a cigar. Bring your camera.’ I’m not counting on that.”
“We want to take a snapshot and tell the story of how life is different in Cuba because of the unique circumstances,” he says, describing of one of the planned segments. “Its not just ‘Oh they’re driving around in old cars’ and ‘Here’s file tape of Fidel.’”
Reporting on the the Cuban government and Cuba’s relationship with the US has often been a controversial proposition in the United States, but Hartman believes that is changing. “There was a huge amount of anger among the Cuban-American community,” says Hartman. “As those original exiles age, that enmity is not going away, but it’s breaking down.”
“There’s still resentment of the Cuban government and the press’s reporting on it — sometimes justified — but not as stark as it once was.”
Frei anchors from Havana — with Katty Kay in Washington — Thursday and Friday night at 7pmET on BBC America.