Page last updated at 02:57 GMT, Tuesday, 28 July 2009 03:57 UK

US turns off Havana news ticker


The giant electronic ticker in Havana

The US has turned off a giant electronic billboard at its diplomatic mission in the Cuban capital, Havana.

The screen, put up during the Bush administration, scrolled news and messages in 1.5m (five-foot) high letters, angering the Cuban government.

Cuban authorities had tried to block it from view with placards and flags.

The decision to turn off the ticker comes as the US seeks to improve relations with Cuba.

'Billboard battle'

The ticker, set up in 2006, streamed news and political messages to the Cuban people from the fifth floor of the US Interest Section in Havana.

It prompted what came to be known as "the battle of the billboards".

Cuba's then-leader Fidel Castro accused the US mission of becoming the "headquarters of the counter-revolution".

He also ordered a million people to march around the mission in protest.

The ticker was turned off in June, but correspondents say that because of the obstructions erected by Cuban authorities, no-one seems to have noticed.

A US state department spokesman, Ian Kelly, confirmed on Monday that the ticker was no longer operating, as it was "really not very effective as a means of delivering information to the Cuban people".

He added that President Barack Obama's decision to allow US communications companies to do business with Cuba would bolster the flow of information to the island.

Earlier in July, US and Cuban officials held their first talks since 2003 on Cuban migration to the US.

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