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The grunts on the ground may have a different take on this one, but it seems fitting the first flick on the AFN-Movie channel will be “Top Gun.”

After years of discussions and surveys, plans and tests, the American Forces Network is set to launch two new channels: AFN-Family and AFN-Movie.

The curtain rises at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

In addition, the network is overhauling its Spectrum channel.

AFN-Spectrum “is almost a third new channel,” Larry Marotta, head of the television division for AFN, said in a phone interview from the Defense Media Center, March Air Reserve Base, Calif.

Currently, AFN-Spectrum airs a variety of hour and half-hour shows, such as “ER” and “Happy Days,” as well as an occasional movie, over the course of an eight-hour schedule. But beginning Friday, the channel will shift to an expanded schedule with far less repetition.

“It’ll be a good companion to AFN-Prime,” said Marotta, referring to what European viewers know as AFN-Atlantic.

In the past, officials said they wanted to air more educational and nature shows on Spectrum, such as the hourlong documentaries on the History and Discovery channels. While that still may be the case, the network’s lineup for early September doesn’t include more programs of that type.

Marotta and other officials have indicated much of what they do is a work in progress. Many of the decisions are based on a 2000 survey, which laid the groundwork for the Family and Movie channels. Another such survey is planned for this spring, according to Marotta.

Mel Russell, the director of American Forces Radio and Television Service officials, said earlier this year there were no immediate plans to expand beyond what was already envisioned for this fall, but he indicated the capability is there. Off the cuff, he said the network “could use more room for sports and news.”

Those are the kinds of issues AFN officials want viewers to address in the upcoming survey.

“We’d like the audience to tell us what’s next,” Marotta said.

For now, the plan for the two new channels debuting Friday is more or less set.

Aside from a few breaks, the AFN-Movie channel will pretty much show one film after another, Marotta said.

AFN-Family will begin the normal viewing day airing shows for toddlers and then gradually become more sophisticated as the school day ends and evening nears. It will, however, hold true to its name: a channel devoted to family viewing.

“Every program we put on will be family friendly,” Marotta said. “It won’t be edgy. It’ll be a safe haven.”

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