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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Locally produced American Forces Network commercials imploring personnel not to waste energy, shoplift or overdose on video games — among other things — are coming to a Direct-to-Home decoder near you.

DTH viewers living outside U.S. military bases in Japan, Okinawa and South Korea will soon have “virtual” channels allowing them to receive the same command information that on-base residents get now.

“This basically gives AFN the capability to insert local TV spots into commercials, so base commanders can get their messages out to the off-base audience, too,” said Kyle Hammitt, director of media for AFN Tokyo at Yokota.

The new satellite distribution feed is available now to AFN Tokyo viewers throughout the Kanto Plain via AFN decoder Channel 4 on the DTH system, he said.

The American Forces Radio and Television Service plans to expand the service across the Pacific theater, focusing on communities anchored by a local AFN affiliate.

The new system should be fully operational throughout Japan in the next six months, he added. It also will be provided to areas served by AFN Misawa, AFN Sasebo, AFN Iwakuni and AFN Okinawa.

“As new equipment comes on line at each location, and technology is upgraded throughout the system, this capability will expand,” Hammitt said.

DTH customers use a small dish and decoder to pick up AFN programming. They usually reside off base or in areas where base cable systems are unavailable.

But the DTH signal originates from the Defense Media Center at March Air Reserve Base in California, so the programming does not contain local command information.

Several years ago, Hammitt said, this was identified as a force-protection issue and a plan was launched to provide that to those customers.

“Keeping our audiences informed on what is happening in their communities is the primary reason that these local AFN stations exist,” he said.

And those quirky commercials play a big part, he added.

They inform viewers about everything from energy conservation and operational security to not playing loud music in dorm rooms. Movie schedules and weather forecasts also are updated regularly.

“We get ribbed from time to time about our commercials,” said Staff Sgt. Dominick Dickens, AFN Tokyo’s chief of production. “But they are very effective in getting our customers’ information to our community members. It’s our mission, and we take it very seriously.”

AFN stations will serve off-base customers through dedicated AFN Prime Pacific satellite channels, Hammitt said.

AFN lineupOff-base residents in Japan, Okinawa and South Korea with Direct-to-Home systems receive AFN programming from a broadcast center at March Air Reserve Base, Calif. Locally produced AFN commercials and other command information will soon be provided through dedicated AFN Prime Pacific satellite channels. A look at the lineup for customers in Japan and Okinawa:

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