Monday, June 2, 2008

AFN: Actually bringing freedom of choice to Iraq and Afghanistan?

At least in its own modest way, it appears that Armed Forces Network (AFN) may be succeeding where the rest of the Defense and State Departments aren't.

AFN brings more cable programming to the US troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan than Comcast brings to my house. But not everyone's happy with the programming options that represents.

One disgruntled viewer stationed in Iraq took strong exception to Countdown with Keith Olbermann being shown at lunch time (Baghdad is GMT +3) and wrote what I'd guess was a pretty strong letter to AFN expressing his disapproval.

Here's the reply he got from AFN:

We’re sorry that you’re disappointed with Countdown, but AFN honestly does its best to offer our viewers a balanced choice of news and commentary featuring the best, most comprehensive stateside programming we can fit into the limited “broadcast real estate” we have available in our schedule. Because AFN is tasked with providing our audience with a fair representation of what they would have available if they were at home, our source decisions are based solely on stateside ratings, feed availability and AFN audience preference as indicated by individual input and worldwide survey. Here is a statistical breakdown of the news sources currently seen on AFN: 28% from FNC, 25% from CNN, 23% from the NBC family of channels (including MSNBC), 19.5% from ABC/CBS and the remaining from PBS, independents and military news sources. It should be noted that we occasionally break into our regular schedule with live news coverage, which might skew these numbers on any given day. In fact, the pairing of Countdown with Keith Olberman with The O’Reilly Factor was designed to provide balanced commentary during primetime in Asia and during lunch in Europe. AFN simply cannot take sides when it comes to political discourse. In the end, it really is all about freedom of choice. Hope this addresses your concerns.

Doctor TV, who passed this item along, notes with some surprise the (far less skewed toward FOX than he expected) selection of news sources available via AFN.

And of course, the AFN "simply cannot take sides when it comes to political discourse" policy stands in stark contrast to the Pentagon's "message force multipliers" program revealed last month. Allowing Olbermann and O'Reilly to go head-to-head doesn't negate the damage done by the so-called "independent military analysts" fed to the mainstream news media, but it's a start.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Being in the military and having served in Iraq and Germany, I can tell you that someone at AFN is deliberate about this. Keith's show is one of the few and only that shows at the same time even in different time zones, at lunch in the DFAC and at eateries on post in both Germany and Iraq on every TV at lunch 1200-1300, even though they are in time zones separated by 2 hours. Everyone I bring it up to when eating agrees that they should have this clown on blast during everyone's break from work, why make people watch that crap during their one hour off? No one eats during O'Reily's show, it's not the scheduled lunch time for everyone. Keith is the only one who gets played to everyone during lunch.