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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Change is in the air at the American Forces Network — just in time for the 2004 Olympic Games.

Officials have mapped out 584 hours of live and recorded Olympics coverage from NBC’s family of networks, which will set the stage for the organization’s Sept. 3 launch of two new television services: AFN Family and AFN Movie.

In addition, AFN Spectrum is being expanded to a 24-hour schedule that will offer new daytime lifestyle programs and more dramas and comedies. It’s currently broadcast in eight-hour cycles to accommodate viewers in the Pacific and European regions.

“This was scheduled to happen last fall,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Tracie Adams, the operations manager for AFN Tokyo. “The launch of the new stations has been in the planning stages for years. For various reasons, they had to delay it.

“It happens to coincide with the Olympics, so that gives us much more flexibility with our coverage.”

While the changes affect all U.S. military bases worldwide, each installation must determine where the new stations will be placed due to the various contracts that exist with commercial cable providers, according to Keith Lebling, AFN Tokyo’s detachment chief. AFN services must be provided free of charge to the military community, however, so they won’t be lumped in with paid channels such as A&E, Comedy Central, Discovery, VH1, MTV and Spike.

At Yokota, six Japanese-language TV stations that sit on the free-tier lineup have been targeted for elimination, he added.

“The services will be available Sept. 3 but because the placeholders on the AFN satellite are there already, AFN has determined they can populate that signal with extra Olympics coverage,” Lebling said. “The services are there, but the location — the pipeline — has not yet been determined. And because most bases have gone to some sort of commercial arrangement, it can’t be done with a magic snap of the fingers.

“The people (at Yokota) will have to decide which of those channels they prefer to keep.”

Yokota’s 374th Contracting Office is conducting a survey to determine which two will be dropped from the existing free-tier lineup, said Mieko Morita, a base spokeswoman. The forms may be completed at the post office, Yujo Recreation Center and Americable office through Friday.

Officials plan to review the results early next week, she added, but the final call will be made by Col. William Story, the 374th Mission Support Group commander.

AFN will air the Olympics, which were to begin Wednesday in Athens, Greece, and are to end Aug. 29, on several of its stations, according to a Defense Media Center news release.

AFN Sports, Atlantic, Pacific and Korea comprise the primary sources for live coverage. AFN Movie is set to broadcast live feeds from MSNBC and CNBC, while AFN Family will carry tape-delayed events from the Bravo network.

“It’ll still be up to the bases to negotiate with the commercial providers they use locally to find the space or the slot” or the channel on which to put AFN Movie and AFN Family, Lebling said. “Each base does things a little differently, so the amount of extra Olympics coverage depends on the contracts. It’s up to each base to implement the new services.”

AFN Family will provide quality, contemporary family entertainment through a variety of programs aimed at all ages, the news release stated. AFN Movie offers a wide array of movies and specials presented with limited interruptions and complemented by programs that take the viewer behind the scenes of the entertainment industry, the release stated. A major Hollywood film is to premier every Saturday night.

The AFN Atlantic/Pacific/ Korea services are being repackaged as AFN Prime to mark the Sept. 3 debut of Movie and Family.

To accommodate the Olympic Games coverage, AFN will adjust some of its regular TV schedules, which are available at http://www.myafn.net/. NBC’s schedule of events can be found at http://www.nbcolympics.com/.


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