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WIESBADEN, Germany — American Forces Network viewers in Europe and the Middle East who do not receive their programming via cable have a little more than a week left to tweak their decoder settings and adjust their satellite dishes to ensure uninterrupted AFN reception when the signal is moved to a different satellite.

AFN’s signal is being moved from the Hotbird satellite at 13 degrees East to the Eurobird satellite at 9 degrees East effective 10 p.m. July 31, said AFN spokesman George Smith. Although the countdown clock on the AFN website indicates the switch occurs two hours later, Smith said 10 p.m. is correct.

Viewers who get AFN via cable won’t be required to make any adjustments, and viewers living in government housing where multiple units share a dish will only need to change decoder settings, once a technician has adjusted the shared dish.

Keith Fenske, AFN-Europe’s chief of web operations, said the website, with instructions, videos and a listing of satellite system installers, has received more than 85,000 views since the May 20 announcement of the change.

Smith said AFN-Europe’s hotline has received more than 1,500 calls regarding the switch.

Most questions have been from viewers in Germany and Italy who want to be able to tune into both AFN and host-country programming with the same satellite.

In Italy, viewers were able to tune in to both SKY Italia and AFN, because both were on Hotbird. Smith said, now, viewers in Italy would need a Clip-on satellite device to allow them to access both SKY Italia and AFN. AFN officials said some degradation of service during inclement weather may happen with a Clip-on device on smaller dishes.

Viewers in Germany can purchase a bracket adapter that clamps onto the existing LNB (low noise block-downconverter) using dual amplifiers to also receive German programming from the Astra satellite. The LNB is a box that sticks out of the middle of the dish. Viewers were able to do this before the switch, but they may now require a larger satellite dish, at least a meter, to make it work, said Marco Schneider with the AFN Help Desk.

AFN is not alone in receiving lots of calls.

“I had no day off since the first of June,” said Urban Kulzer, a satellite installer for ITT. Kulzer services American customers in the Kaiserslautern, Ramstein, Mannheim, Heidelberg and Wiesbaden areas.

Kulzer, who charges between 70 euro and 130 euro for the necessary adjustments, said he’s already responded to more than 100 calls from customers, who could not or did not want to attempt the satellite adjustments themselves.

“Most people don’t want their husbands to climb on the roof, and some customers tried, but failed due to different reasons,” Kulzer said.

Ralph Mango, a satellite installer with Point to Point, services the Naples, Italy, area and said it’s the busiest he’s seen business in eight years.

“I would say 2 percent can do their own system, the other 98 percent try and get no TV at all,” said Mango. “There are too many changes on the new system, and if they forget one thing, it will not work,” Mango added.

Col. Bill Bigelow, AFN Europe commander, explaining the switch from the Hotbird satellite said, “It was no longer available to us, so we had to go out and find another satellite.” According to Bigelow, the move to Eurobird is expected to save $4 million over the last three years of a five year contract.

More information on the switch can be found by visiting www.afneurope.net.

AFN Europe’s hot line can be reached on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central European Time and Tuesday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. CET at the toll-free number, 00800-236-268-3662. The number to dial from Turkey is 00800-491-236-268-3662. A DSN number, 314-389-4299, is also available for people who can’t make a toll-free call.

pattonm@estripes.osd.mil


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