WASHINGTON — High-powered Cuban radio transmissions knocked two clear channel stations in Iowa and Utah almost entirely off the air for six hours Tuesday night, prompting the FCC to alert the State Department today.
The interference, apparently in retaliation for the Voice of America's Radio Marti broadcasts to Cuba, was aimed at WHO in Des Moines--the station where President Reagan once worked as a sportscaster--and KSL in Salt Lake City, a Federal Communications Commission spokesman said.
During the daytime on recent weekends, Cuba has interfered with WHO by transmitting Radio Moscow's English-language broadcast.
But Tuesday's interference on the frequencies used by WHO and KSL was the first time Cuba has struck so long at night--when signals of the so-called AM clear channel stations can be heard hundreds of miles away, the agency said.
The Cuban relay of Radio Taino, with a mixture of English and Spanish-language programming, on 1040 and 1160 kilohertz lasted from at least 6 p.m. until midnight, FCC spokesman John Kamp said.
"We heard (it) at Grand Isle, Neb., at an FCC monitoring station," Kamp said. "It was also heard by an FCC staffer in Manassas, Va."
Dick Smith, chief of field operations at the FCC, said Cuba could be using as much as 300,000 watts of power. U.S. Class A clear channel stations operate at 50,000 watts.
KSL assistant chief engineer Randy Finch said that listeners could hear the station in the Salt Lake City area but that the signal was overpowered about 40 or 50 miles away. He said KSL went off the air twice during the evening for three minutes to help the FCC measure the strength of the Cuban transmissions.
Cuban radio interference has been a problem in Southeastern states, particularly Florida, for 15 years.
In 1984, when Radio Marti was preparing to go on the air, Cuba increased interference so much that Congress voted to compensate broadcasters who had to upgrade their radio towers to overcome the assault.
Last August, following an impasse on negotiations over U.S.-Cuban radio rights, Cuba's vice foreign minister threatened to start AM broadcasts to the United States to reciprocate for Radio Marti transmissions.
Kamp said Tuesday's interference was the worst since Radio Marti began its Spanish-language broadcasts in the spring of 1985.