American Forces Radio and Television Service

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According to its website, the American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS) "is part of the Department of Defense, and is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. The AFRTS mission is to communicate Department of Defense policies, priorities, programs, goals and initiatives. AFRTS provides stateside radio and television programming, 'a touch of home,' to U.S. service men and women, DoD civilians, and their families serving outside the continental United States." The only people authorized to obtain an American Forces Network "decoder" to receive AFRTS signals are "the following personnel living or assigned overseas and authorized military exchange privileges: active duty military, and Department of Defense civilians."[1]

AFRTS "maintains a newsroom, television edit suites and radio studio in Alexandria, Virginia, and a television recording facility associated with the Pentagon Public Affairs Briefing Studio. While the Pentagon is the NewsCenter's primary beat, reporting teams occasionally cover stories outside the Washington area, or produce reports using information and videotape provided from the field. Material for NewsCenter television products must be of DoD-wide interest."[2]'s Eric Boehlert writes that AFRTS "was created by the War Department in 1942 to improve troop morale... It added a television service in 1950. American Forces Radio beams 'stereo audio services to over 1,000 outlets in more than 175 countries and U.S. territories, and on board U.S. Navy ships,' according to its Web site. It reaches an audience of nearly 1 million with an innocuous lineup of classic rock, country and pop music, along with some sports telecasts, CNN's 'Headline News' and [right-wing talk radio show host Rush] Limbaugh's out-of-place radical rants." [3]

The daily hour AFRTS broadcasts Rush Limbaugh has been criticized as right wing "propaganda" beamed to a segment of the population whose votes were decisive in the 2000 elections. Boehlert notes that Limbaugh's show was added to the network only after conservative lawmakers and pundits raised a fuss: "In 1993, then Rep. Robert Dornan, R-Calif., along with 69 other Republican House members, sent a letter to President Clinton's first secretary of defense, Les Aspin, demanding that both Limbaugh's radio show and his syndicated television show (on which Limbaugh compared preteen Chelsea Clinton to a dog) be broadcast to the military." AFRTS responded: "The Rush Limbaugh Show makes no pretense that his show is balanced. If AFRTS scheduled a program of personal commentary without balancing it with another viewpoint, we would be open to broad criticism that we are supporting a particular point of view." But after just a few days of "conservative media and Republicans [crying] censorship," Limbaugh was assured his show would air on AFRTS. [4]

In a May 26, 2004, press release, Media Matters for America announced that Media Matters President and CEO David Brock had "sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld requesting that Secretary Rumsfeld consider removing radio host Rush Limbaugh from the American Forces Radio and Television Service (formerly known as Armed Forces Radio). Limbaugh, whose program is broadcast for one hour per day to U.S. troops overseas, has spent the past four weeks condoning and trivializing the abuse, torture, rape and possible murder of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. guards at the Abu Ghraib prison--gross misconduct that Rumsfeld has described as 'fundamentally un-American'."

MMFA has posted an online petition which visitors to its web site may sign and send "urging Secretary Rumsfeld to remove Limbaugh's show from the network."

The MMFA web site also provides "Gore to Dubya: Condemn Limbaugh," a May 26, 2004, commentary by Al Gore which includes an audio transcript (also in print) of Limbaugh's comments, as well as full transcripts of shows dating from May 3-14, 2004, with Rush Limbaugh's Iraqi prisoner torture comments.


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