AFN Prime signal going dark for off-base cable subscribers
June 6, 2008
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Woori Cable subscribers living off post in Uijeongbu and who look for the American Forces Network on Channel 37 will now find Korean cartoons instead.
Cable subscribers throughout South Korea will soon lose AFN Prime — if they haven’t already — as the result of a June 2007 letter from U.S. Forces Korea asking the South Korean government to stop pirating the signal.
As cable companies eliminate AFN, some are also revamping and eliminating other channels.
Cable companies had picked up and packaged the AFN signal in their rate plans for several years, but American companies attempting to sell programming brought complaints to the military recently.
The nation’s 103 cable companies have gradually ceased carrying AFN this year, said Ja Mi-ae, spokeswoman for the federal government’s New Media Division of the new Korea Communication Commission.
"Within this year, we are certain that the channel completely would be removed," Ja said.
In November, the Korea Communication Commission’s forerunner, under a previous administration, gave companies until this month to cease AFN transmission.
Most seem to be heeding that directive, Ja said.
Yongsan Cable, which provides services to many subscribers around Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, plans to end AFN broadcasts at the end of this month. Other Seoul cable providers axed AFN earlier this year.
However, it’s unclear if broadcasters that ignored the directive could be punished, beyond being sent a notice.
"There are no regulations on how to punish violators," Ja conceded.
Off-post subscribers looking for more English-language options, such as BBC News, BBC Entertainment, HBO and Discovery Channel, can subscribe to Sky Life satellite service, which starts at about $22 a month.
To receive AFN Prime and other AFN channels, off-post personnel must now purchase the satellite dish for $110 and rent the satellite decoder for $13 per month from Army and Air Force Exchange Service. Users can install the equipment themselves or pay $150 to $200 for professional installation.
AAFES began accepting cash and credit cards for the equipment Feb 1. Previously, personnel had to use the company’s in-house Military Star card.
AAFES officials were not available for comment Wednesday on whether they had seen more demand for satellite equipment or added additional stock.