7 May 2005 at 5:12:16 PM
The one-year anniversary of the launch of the Pentagon Channel is coming up on May 14, 2005 We had some questions about the Pentagon Channel, and the answers we received have raised some more which we hope to get addressed in the future. Besides the Q&A, we note that two of the top people in charge of the Pentagon Channel were also ones who defended airing Rush Limbaugh on Armed Forces Radio without a significant counterbalance to the extreme right-wing ravings of Rush (NPR doesn't count because generally, at least in the past before the board changed, it has attempted to be balanced reporting)
|Allison ""It would be propaganda if we tried to spin it." Barber|
Q. Who produces the Pentagon Channel? I assume its oursourced to some production company. Which one or ones?
A. The Pentagon Channel was created by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs (OASD(PA))- which also manages its day-to-day operation. Distributed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Pentagon Channel delivers timely Department of Defense (DoD) news and information to the men and women on active duty in the Armed Forces, those serving in the Reserve and National Guard- as well as retired military people, DoD civilian employees and military family members. A team of government employees, military personnel, and contracted personnel are involved in operating the channel.
Q. What is the cost of producing the Pentagon Channel? I realize the cost of airing it is gratis per Dish and some other providers.
A. $6.5 million dollars have been allotted for operations over a one year period.
Q. Since it is paid for from taxpayer money, what area in the budget specifically is it being allocated from?
A. Pentagon Channel funding was first approved in the Fiscal Year 2004 Defense Authorization Bill. Current funding was approved in the Fiscal Year 2005 Defense Authorization Bill.
Q. Was the Pentagon Channel expressly approved by Congress? If so, which members of the House and Senatae approved it, on what bill(s)?
A. Funding for the Pentagon Channel was contained in the specified auhorization bills approved by the US House of Representatives and the US Senate.
Q. Who is in charge of the Pentagon created Iraq channel? (Producer, etc) Are any of the programs that are shown on the Pentagon Channel in the United States shown on the Iraq Pentagon Channel? (and vice versa)
A. There is only one Pentagon Channel; it is broadcast worldwide, and is not associated with an DoD or US State Department broadcasts intended for viewing by audiences other than those specified above. While the channel draws programming from a variety of sources- principally within the Department of Defense organizations and the military services- its original programming is not shared with broadcasters targeting non-US audiences. Nor does the Pentagon Channel broadcast material created by or for such internationally focused broadcasting organizations.
Q. Who heads the Pentagon Channel? Is there a board and if so, who is on it?
A. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Mr. Allison Barber leads the Pentagon Channel team, in addition to overseeing all other Internal Communications Initiatives within DoD. As Director of Broadcasting within OASD(PA), Mr. Melvin W Russell, supervises news, operations, and long-term planning. Mr. Chas Henry is the channel's executive producer. All three personnel are civilian employees of the DoD and Messrs Russell and Henry are career civil servants.
Q. Who heads the Iraq Pentagon Channel? Is there a board, and if so, who is on it?
A. As noted, the Pentagon Channel is not associated with any such initiative; the Pentagon Channel staff, therefore, is unfamiliar with the operation of such other organizations.
Allison Barber-defended airing Rush Limbaugh's radio program to the troops overseas, via Media Matters..
Melvin Russell was, in 2004, Armed Forces Radio Chief and defended airing Rush Limbaugh without any counterbalance.
"My answer [on Stern]," says Russell, "is we have determined that that show, because of the [sexual] content, was not appropriate for a network that has just one or two stations broadcasting to an audience that ranges from 1-year-olds up to 50-year-olds."
"Rush Limbaugh is appropriate?" says Franken. "Saying the troops at Abu Ghraib were just blowing off steam -- that's more appropriate than what Howard Stern says? It sounds to me like they're rationalizing their decision." Adds Athans: "That sounds like censorship. In one breath, in regard to Limbaugh, they say they don't censor what the military listens to, and in the next breath they say Howard Stern is not appropriate."
"We don't censor, we provide," answers Russell. "Our troops deserve the same information that's available to them in the U.S."
With the additions and the changes, AFN viewers will be receiving more than 1,100 hours of programming per week. The additions and changes account for more than 400 of those hours, Russell said adding that viewers will now have seven unique programming products to choose from: AFN Family, Movie, Spectrum, Prime, Sports, News and the Pentagon Channel
Chas Henry- Chas Henry, former national security correspondent at Washington, D.C.’s WTOP radio network, has become an executive producer at the Pentagon Channel, which provides information for the military and their families. While still at WTOP, he covered the Iraq war, as seen from being at Centcom briefings.
From CMPI- Government Video website-
The Pentagon Channel is produced by a 36-person civilian and military staff that work in two general areas, the Pentagon Channel’s NewsCenter and TV operations. “The NewsCenter looks like a typical TV newsroom,” said Russell. “Walk inside and you’ll see reporters, producers, writers, and editors sitting at their computers, working on the day’s military news.” The NewsCenter also serves as a backdrop for the channel’s newscasts and interview show, which is why the Pentagon Channel’s on-air look is reminiscent of other news shows.
For editing back at HQ, the NewsCenter uses five Avid NLE systems and three Avid graphics platforms. “We also have a number of servers, Beta SX DNW-A75 videotape decks, and computer workstations,” added Russell.
Master control for the facility is built around a Miranda PressMaster switcher. The various feeds into master control are handled by a PESA RCPMLDT router and a remote control router. Video is recorded and played back using Sony Beta SX decks and three Leitch video servers (one VR420 and two VR440s). Leitch is also the source for master control’s frame sync generator and LogoMotion logo inserter. The package is rounded out by a Pinnacle FXDeko II CG and a Telex RTS MRT-327 intercom system.
Once produced, the Pentagon Channel’s programming is fed via fiber to a third-party Web content distributor for transmission online and uplinked to AMC-1 for distribution throughout the United States. “Our service is available to all cable and DBS providers for free, and some of them have started to carry us,” Barber said. The Pentagon Channel is also distributed internationally by the AFRTS satellite service for U.S. military personnel in 177 countries.
Eventually, Barber hopes to see the Pentagon Channel made available on U.S. cable systems nationwide. Plus, the growing popularity of broadband Internet access can only expand the number of households able to see the Pentagon Channel on the Web, and the media’s interest in tracking the military make it a natural source for information.
Since its launch a few months ago, the Pentagon Channel has made an impression — and not just with U.S troops. “Many of our viewers are non-military,” Barber noted. “Based on their feedback to our Web site, they are intrigued by the men and women of our military, and what they face. They are the same sort of civilians who watch military programming on The History Channel.”
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