AFN Korea survey offers listeners, viewers a say in programming
April 18, 2005
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Quick: Pick your three favorite types of music. Now, decide on your five favorite kinds of television shows.
If a few thousand people agree, the answers to such questions may change American Forces Network programming in South Korea so that people serving here get more of their favorite shows and music in the years to come, according to Douglas Griffin, broadcasting director for AFN Korea.
Until May 15, AFN Korea is conducting an online survey that will shape its radio and television lineups throughout the peninsula. The survey also will help AFN determine who tunes in to which shows, and who may have poor or limited access to the American sounds and shows from home.
“What we are trying to do, first of all, is determine if we’re providing listeners and viewers with the right combination of programming,” Griffin said.
To do that, AFN officials want a better understanding of who makes up the audiences they have throughout South Korea, Griffin said.
“In Area I, we’ve got a pretty good idea,” he said, noting that much of the military personnel there are young soldiers who prefer Top 40 music. But Yongsan — with its families, officers and contractors — has an audience that isn’t so easy to peg, he said.
“Right now, we don’t know the demographics for Yongsan,” Griffin said. “We think we know, but we’re not sure.”
So, many of the questions on the survey ask about assignments, ages and education levels, in addition to viewing habits and music preferences.
The questions also are meant to discover who might not have access to AFN’s radio or television programs, he said.
Right now, for example, about 50 servicemembers stationed at a Korean base in the southern part of the country receive no AFN services.
The survey results will have a more direct impact on radio programming, Griffin said, because AFN Korea gets to decide the formats and has different disc jockeys throughout the country.
Griffin has less control over the television programs, because a private firm out of California decides AFN’s worldwide lineup. Still, the survey will help make a case that servicemembers here might want, for example, more dramas and fewer game shows, Griffin said.
Recently, AFN’s radio division rearranged its AM lineup in response to an audit that found the station wasn’t running enough command announcements. Some of those changes include a cut in National Public Radio programming and an additional show on Sunday mornings about NASCAR racing, Griffin said.
The cuts to NPR programs came because the nonprofit doesn’t allow AFN to run local command announcements during its shows, Griffin said Thursday. That makes it hard to meet the military’s requirements about airtime for command information, he said.
“Our primary mission is to provide command information,” he said.
In the end, NPR programming was cut from 35 hours a week to 15½ hours a week, he said. The average airtime for NPR shows on AFN radio worldwide is about 17 hours, he said.
The survey will allow people to weigh in about these types of changes, though the questions don’t ask for feedback as specific as favorite musical artists, television shows, sports teams, movies or talk-radio hosts.
Instead, the questions ask participants to pick their favorite genres: sitcoms, news, Top 40, jazz, documentaries and others.
The results likely will be available by the end of the summer, he said. Programming changes could happen by early fall.
The survey ...
American Forces Network Korea is conducting the survey now through May 15. The 56-question survey is on the Internet at afnkorea.net and takes 10-15 minutes to complete.
Anyone in South Korea under the status of forces agreement — servicemembers, civilian workers, contractors and their families — can participate. Each person must log in to AFN to answer the questions, and each person may complete the survey one time.
— Teri Weaver