No NFL football, movies and other popular AFN programming if government shuts down
Stars and Stripes September 29, 2023
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — An impending government shutdown in the United States is threatening to put a damper on gameday plans for American service members overseas who are diehard NFL fans.
If Congress can’t agree on a stopgap funding bill, viewers who tune in to American Forces Network starting Sunday to catch their favorite teams will instead see a graphic directing them to AFN News, the station’s senior directors said Friday.
If the government shuts down, AFN is under a Pentagon directive to reduce broadcast staffing and services from eight television channels to one, which will show only news, and only one radio station, AFN the Eagle, the network officials said.
The channels would go dark at midnight Eastern Time on Saturday, which is 5 a.m. Sunday in England, 6 a.m. Sunday in Germany and Belgium and 1 p.m. Sunday in Japan and South Korea.
In addition, the streaming service AFN Now will air only news if there’s a shutdown. AFN had planned to use the app to show an average of 12 to 15 NFL games per week, some live and some tape-delayed.
Programming would also cease on the AFN movie and family channels in that event.
“We just don’t have the staffing to run more than the essential services,” AFN spokesman John Clearwater said.
The AFN broadcast center in Riverside, Calif., has about 220 employees, a mix of military personnel, government civilians and contractors.
The center’s service members and contractors would continue to work through a shutdown, while most civilians would be furloughed, AFN officials said.
AFN also runs 26 radio stations overseas, mostly staffed by military members, said Tom Arnholt, chief of AFN Radio.
Local AFN the Eagle programming will continue in overseas military communities, delivering top 40 music, news, and local and regional information.
The broadcast center will take over the feed after the local DJs sign off for the evening, Arnholt said. AFN the Eagle will also be available on satellite radio and the AFN Go app.
AFN has weathered previous government shutdowns, network officials pointed out. Other instances were 35 days in 2018, 16 days in 2013 and 21 days in 1995, they said.