For Americans in Kaiserslautern, no upside to Canadian Forces radio’s demise
October 10, 2014
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Bone up on your German. It could be a year or more before Americans can get English-language radio in their cars in the Kaiserslautern area.
Home to one of the largest military communities outside of the United States, Kaiserslautern has seen its English-language radio options whittled from three to one in the span of little more than a month because of budget cuts. For technical reasons, the one that’s left can’t be tuned in by most American radios.
An American Forces Network spokesman said getting a compatible signal for the community is a “top priority.”
“Unfortunately, getting a new frequency or swapping a frequency takes years and needs approval by not just the German equivalent of the FCC, but also neighboring countries, such as France,” George Smith, a spokesman for the network, said.
AFN shut down its AM transmitter on Aug. 31 in a move that officials at the time called a “quick win” in European Command’s efforts to shed unneeded infrastructure.
A day later, the Canadian Forces Network announced it, too, was going off the air. CFN’s station in Ramstein, next to Kaiserslautern, went silent Sept. 30.
Those closures leave just AFN Kaiserslautern, a station that broadcasts at FM 100.2. That frequency is incompatible with most modern American car stereos, which can pick up only odd-numbered signals. CFN previously broadcast on FM 101.9.
The only other English-language radio option nearby is AFN Wiesbaden, some 60 miles northeast, whose signal occasionally trickles in on 98.7.
“AFN understands and deeply regrets that some audience members in the Kaiserslautern area can’t tune in our 100.2 AFN The Eagle frequency in their American car,” Smith said. “Getting a U.S.-friendly FM radio frequency for the American military community in Kaiserslautern has been a top priority for AFN for many years.”
The network has been touting its AFN 360 service, available on computers and smartphones, as an alternative. The service’s streams of talk, music and local AFN stations, including AFN Kaiserslautern, use about 14 megabytes of data per hour of listening time, Smith said.
AFN is still negotiating with the German government for a new signal, though. It had been doing so before CFN shut down. While the 101.9 frequency is now just dead air, AFN can’t just simply swap for it because German stations are given first crack at any free signal.
“If the negotiations work out, we hope to be able to provide a U.S.-friendly frequency to the Kaiserslautern community by late 2015,” Smith said.
However, AFN had thought it was close to a deal with the Germans before, “only to have late complications force us to start over,” he said.