Berkshire Hathaway-owned Miami ABC affiliate WPLG has announced it has been given permission to be the first local TV station in the U.S. to base a full time news crew in Cuba.
Starting Monday, Local 10 News Havana debuts in the station’s 6 p.m. newscast with reporter Hatzel Vela and photojournalist Brian Ely, who have moved to the communist country.
“We are very proud of the work that we’ve done in Cuba over the past few years,” said WPLG president Bert Medina. “This opportunity takes it to a whole new level. We are making this investment because the Cuba story is very important to our community.”
“Hatzel and Brian are free to cover the stories they choose to cover,” said WPLG vp of news Bill Pohovey. “In our many trips to Cuba we have reported without any government meddling and this new arrangement comes with no strings attached. The only request from the Cuban government was a promise that our coverage would be fair, and that’s something we deliver in all of our news coverage.”
Vela did a 30 part series of stories called “Cuba Coast to Coast” in 2015 after being the first American reporter allowed to travel across Cuba.
“This is an incredible opportunity for a journalist,” said Vela. “This is historic for us, and this is a historic time to be in Cuba. President Obama restored ties between our two countries, everyone will be watching to see what happens under a new Trump administration.”
NBC News says Cuban-Americans make up more than half (54 percent) of the city’s residents.
Miami stations got a glimpse of what working in Cuba was like during Obama’s visit in March. At the time, The Miami Herald reported a single live shot could cost a station 20 times more than it does stateside.
“It’s like working in any other foreign country — except there’s no Radio Shack or Walgreens,” WFOR anchor Eliott Rodriguez told the Herald. “When something breaks down, like batteries, or you need cables, it’s really difficult.”