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Mideast edition, Sunday, September 23, 2007

WASHINGTON — American Forces Network officials are planning a simplified version of their new Web site after receiving complaints from troops deployed to combat zones who could not access TV listings and other information.

The site, www.myafn.net, was redesigned over the summer and now features menus created in Adobe Flash Player for viewers to search show times and details. Visitors with the most recent updates of the software, versions 8 or 9, can access all of the listings and searches available on the page. But users without the software get only error messages and empty boxes when they visit the site.

Larry Sichter, AFN chief of affiliate relations, acknowledged the network has received complaints from some troops about the site redesign because they can no longer access the channel listings. Users must have administrative control of the computer to install the program, a problem with many of the business and public-use computers in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

To expand access to all possible visitors, Sichter said AFN staff is developing an alternate version of the site, accessible to users with slow connections, limited software or physical constraints. By law, all federal agencies are required to make their online offerings accessible to people with disabilities.

“We haven’t established a target date yet but will probably launch it in stages, providing basic accessibility to our (TV listing) spreadsheets first, followed by more functionality later,” he said.

In the meantime, Sichter said, most sets which have access to AFN stations also have access to its TV listing channels, allowing a look into the network’s broadcasting plans. Many base newspapers, as well as Stars and Stripes, publish some weekly and daily channel listings. However, that depends on the area.

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