TV decoders on the way for customers at Misawa, Yokota
November 17, 2004
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — For off-base Japan residents tired of watching television in a foreign language, the wait for American shows such as “CSI” and “Survivor” is almost over.
A satellite decoder, a security device that customers lease monthly from their base exchange to access American Forces Network channels in their off-base homes, is on back order at two U.S. air bases on mainland Japan.
But Army and Air Force Exchange officials said this week stocks should be replenished by the end of this month.
The biggest shortage is at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan, where as of last week, more than 70 people awaited a decoder, said Mike Patmon, sales and merchandise manager for Misawa AAFES.
The decoders are also out of stock at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, but just 17 people were on the waiting list last week, said Yokota AAFES general manager Flishia Bailey.
AAFES spokeswoman Army Sgt. 1st Class Amanda Glenn, based at the company’s Pacific headquarters on Okinawa, said Monday there was “a slight delay” in getting decoders to Japan for two reasons: “We did switch models of the decoder for Japan and Okinawa and we also switched our warehouse.”
Decoders previously were stored at a Japan warehouse but now come from a distribution center near Oakland, Calif., officials said.
“There was a slight delay in getting them because we had a new model,” Glenn said. “They weren’t readily available.”
More decoders are on order and should arrive in mainland Japan stores by the end of November, she added. “They are available now. Any delay was a slight delay.”
Patmon said Misawa’s base exchange is expecting a shipment of about 100 decoders by Monday.
The store hasn’t received any new decoders for 30 days, though a few decoders were leased after some people turned theirs in as they made a permanent change of station, or PCS, he said.
“We haven’t had people waiting for more than two months,” he said.
Patmon said many people assigned to Misawa live off base. The popularity of Direct to Home, the American Forces Radio and Television Services off-base television system, appears to be growing, he said.
“From mid-summer to present, the demand for it has been increasingly higher,” he said, attributing that, in part, to customer word-of-mouth and the addition of two new AFN channels this fall.
When the decoders come in, everyone on Misawa’s waiting list will be notified, Patmon said. “We’ll give them a window of opportunity to come pick them up. At the end of November, nobody should still be waiting for a decoder.”
Yokota could get some decoders before the end of the month, Bailey said, by taking a few from the exchange at Camp Zama, Japan, where plenty are in stock.
Bailey said that earlier this year, AAFES in Japan and Okinawa sent some decoders to Iraq, where the devices are in demand from servicemembers.
On Okinawa, a recent shortage of decoders is resolved, Glenn said. It was driven in part by shipment delays and more people living off base while Kadena Air Base housing units undergo maintenance construction.
Navy bases in Japan have decoders in stock, said Jerry McMahan, services operations manager for Navy Exchange Yokosuka. No shortages were reported in South Korea.
An estimated 15,000 U.S. military households exist off base in Japan and South Korea, according to information on the AFRTS Web site, www.afrts.osd.mil.
AFRTS uses the decoder to protect its programming from unauthorized audiences; it turns on each decoder individually over its satellite links from two locations in the United States.
At most bases, the decoder costs about $25 per month to lease. AFRTS customers also must buy a satellite dish to link into AFN off base. Price of the dish varies.