Commission: Pirated AFN allowed until June
SEOUL — Some off-base residents will get to enjoy American Forces Network programming from local cable providers for at least six more months, South Korean officials confirmed Friday.
The Korean Broadcasting Commission has directed cable companies to cease broadcasting a pirated AFN Pacific Prime signal by June 2008, said Kang Dong-won, director of KBC’s New Media and Foreign Channel Division.
Some of the companies began running television crawlers in Korean and English in November, announcing they would cease broadcasting the channel that month.
Kang said Friday the companies weren’t required to stop the broadcast in November. He said KBC merely announced that the companies would have to stop at some point in the future.
Kang said 62 of 106 South Korean cable companies broadcast the signal, but he wasn’t sure how many might have stopped since November.
AFN personnel take a satellite feed of the Pacific Prime broadcast, insert local command information such as news broadcasts and Korea-specific public service announcements, and send it out over the open airwaves, so any U.S. Forces Korea member who is in range and has an antenna can pick up the signal.
USFK officials have said the broadcast provides another means to transmit emergency information and supplements the primary radio broadcast outlet.
South Korean cable companies, however, pirate the signal and sell it with their other programming. Local real estate agencies say they commonly provide South Korean cable or satellite service to USFK members renting off-base housing.
American companies attempting to sell programming in South Korea in recent years brought complaints about the pirated signal to the U.S. military. On June 17, USFK presented a letter to the broadcasting commission, asking them to stop the broadcasts.
USFK officials say that when the broadcasts finally are stopped, the best option for those who lost their AFN channel is to buy AFN Direct-to-Home satellite service through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.
AAFES sells the satellite dish for $83.95, the decoder box rental fee is $13 a month, and residents can expect to pay a contracted company about $150 to install the dish. And AAFES requires customers to use the in-house Military Star Card.
But even if USFK personnel buy the satellite service, they won’t receive the Korea-produced information and news alerts for at least a few months, AFN officials have said. Under a new system, the local information eventually will be broadcast to the satellite dish subscribers off base.