The American Forces Network (AFN) is the US military’s radio and TV network for American servicemen and women serving overseas. The programming that’s broadcast by AFN is in some ways the American military’s portal to news and entertainment at home, as the network broadcasts everything from the shows of Fox News and CNN to soap operas and sports. But American service members aren’t always happy about what’s being aired.
I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Defense and obtained complaints that have been made around the world about programming on the network so far this year. And it’s a fascinating snapshot of the frustrations that service members and their families are having with the media that’s made available to them.
Some of the complaints mirror what you’d find in complaints to the FCC here in the United States about indecency on TV and radio. Others are more specific to media campaigns taking place in the military. For instance, AFN has been airing anti-sexual assault TV ads and some of the complaints have taken issue with these ads airing during programming that’s aimed at children. One of the complaints describes a PSA where a man violently pushes a woman to the ground before unbuckling his belt.
Other complaints revolve around political bias on TV and radio. Some of the complaints are from service members complaining about Rush Limbaugh’s radio show which “only serve[s] to divide our country.” Other complaints are from service members objecting to Fox News airing in the middle of the night in some parts of the world while “a dike journalist bashing conservatives” is scheduled during the day. Presumably this is in reference to Rachel Maddow, the left-leaning lesbian TV commentator on MSNBC.
One complaint from an active duty servicewoman takes issue with the fact that AFN is airing the Victoria’s Secret swimsuit show during primetime hours. As she points out in her complaint, the military had banned her from reading women’s fitness magazines in her duty section under the pretense of an anti-sexual assault campaign, and none of the recent fashion shows that she wanted to watch had aired. “Perhaps they just weren’t geared toward my male counterparts as you would like,” she wrote to AFN.
Some of the comments are quite disturbing and are no doubt outliers, but they’re also a very useful barometer for unvarnished opinions in the American military. One complains about “faggot movies” being played on the network. Another, filed just a couple of months ago on June 20th, was taking issue with some mention of Gay Pride on the American Forces Network. The Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando that left 49 people dead and 53 injured had just occurred on June 12th.
The person filing the complaint wrote:
Enough with the political correct nonsense. Gay Pride? We laugh. 300+ homos in the Pulse Club and not one bothered to fight back? Really? How did we ever win a war without them? Guarantee you, the outcome would have been very different if there were 300 Marines in that club. We laugh at AFN’s pathetic capitulation to political correctness.
Respectfully, [name redacted by the military]
Good thing he wrote “respectfully,” otherwise I would’ve figured that his laughing at 49 dead “homos” would’ve been pretty disrespectful. Not to mention that there are plenty of Marines past and present who are gay. In fact, a Marine who served in Afghanistan and was working at the Pulse club helped save the lives of dozens of people on the night of the attack.
Obviously the person who filed this complaint is a dinosaur and will become extinct in the near future, but his complaints do serve as a useful cultural temperature gauge for a military that has not only done away with the policy of “don’t ask don’t tell” recently, but now allows trans service members to serve openly.
Other complaints are just about wanting more of a particular sport. Like the service member who pointed out that during football season they get four different games on Sundays but hardly get any international soccer games at all. As the person filing the complaint points out, he’s posted in a part of the world where soccer is the only sport that matters and feels that increased soccer coverage would contribute to better cultural understanding and immersion in host countries.
I’ve divided up the complaints by topic and should note that they come from American service members stationed around the world. Thus, you’ll see inconsistencies where some service members on a particular base may complain about one particular type of programming (too much or too little of Fox News, for example) which might contradict another complaint from someone else halfway around the world. Unfortunately the complaints do not show which military base the complaint originated from, but as I said, I think they give a peek into the everyday frustrations of American service members, both of the bigoted-dinosaur and decent-human-being variety.
The complaints all range from December 2015 to July 2016 and I haven’t corrected any spelling errors.
On political bias and commercials on AFN TV and radio
I would like to complain about AFN rebroadcasting Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. All he does Is spew hateful, sexist, and racist statements that only serve to divide our country. Frankly, I do not care if he is republican or democrat but his commentary go well beyond normal discourse. I respectfully request that AFN reconsider broadcasting his show.
Enough with the constant liberal media that you are shoving down our throats! You play CBS, MSNBC, CNN and everything in between all morning and afternoon long. Fox comes on for a stint late at night and very early in the morning, when convienantly most are in bed. Here’s a concept that’s probably really hard for you in the communications field to grasp. The military traditionally is conservative, though I do realize there are some liberals, the military is largely conservative. So how about this, you alternate between conservative and liberal news. STOP playing liberal news All DAY LONG!! It’s bullshit and I’m tired of you people shoving it down our throats! Also, the month of June has been dubbed by Obama to be officially LGBT appreciation month and without skipping a beat the brilliant liberal minds at AFN thought it would be great to play queer movies all month long. What the fuck are you doing??!! Again, stop shoving that shit down our throats! Play nuetral, non political movies! Not everyone in this world is accepting of that lifestyle nor do we want to see it on tv, especially when we have 10 fucking channels, one of which is a schedule channel and the other has a dike journalist bashing conservatives. Now the movie channel will be playing faggot movies. Get with it AFN.
Hello AFN, Does AFN policy prohibit commercials? If so, I would like to know why AFN broadcasts the last 3 minutes of the O’Reilly Factor (Monday through Friday) at 11 AM (CET) in which every day, he sells his books, premium subscriptions to his website, and tickets to his shows which promote his political agenda? How is this allowed if AFN policy does not permit commercials? Thanks [redacted]
Good Afternoon, I just had a few questions regarding your AFN News scheduling. Why is it that from 1500-2000 Tuesday-Saturday you broadcast three MSNBC commentary shows and only one from another 24 hours news media outlet? I realize you broadcast CNN and Fox News throughout the day, but that is when most people are at work. And then In the afternoon, when most people are getting off work and are able to watch TV, you broadcast multiple MSNBC commentators who have some of the lowest ratings in cable TV and whose total agenda is criticizing conservative ideas. Three out of the five hours in the window I outlined above are shows with three liberals who do nothing but bash conservative ideas. Then at 2000 you roll right into NBC Today show which also presents multiple MSNBC political pundits who are more Interested in trashing Presidential candidates from one particular party than they are presenting balanced campaign coverage. My point is that it doesn’t seem like we the viewers are being afforded the opportunity to watch a fair amount of reporting that covers both conservative and liberal ideas on AFN News during evening hours. Is this done on purpose? Are you in some type of agreement with MSNBC that allows you to broadcast more of their shows during these hours? And if so, did the other stations decline to make the same type of deal which restricts you from broadcasting their shows during these hours? I certainly would not expect AFN to be part of the bias media corps that Is obvious In today’s mainstream media, but it is odd that NBC dominates your prime time news hours. Thank you for reading my feedback.
I have noticed that AFN News shows noticeably more Fox News programing than other news sources. Fox programs tend to be more political/news whereas, for example, CNN programming is usually documentary of some nature and not political/news. I would like to request more parity between various news sources in terms of sources and content types.
I am absolutely disgusted with the current coverage of the Republican Party convention. The network hosts are clearly pro Democratic and continue to make negative comments about the Republican Nominee. I think it was very poor judgement to have a clearly Pro Democratic network televise the final day of the Republican Convention. I suspect the same decision will take place using a Pro Republican network on the final day of the Democratic convention! Very disappointing to watch AFN right now, as I believe this was a political decision that should not be represented in a military community!
Dear AFN, this entire past week I have been watching MSNBC and ABC news. I hope this is not your politics agenda. Every night at 7pm I look forward towards watching the news presented by Bill Riley, unfortunately I have to see something that is very bias news angle. I hope to continue watching the O’Riley factor. Also PLEASE for crying out loud, remove these soap operas “General hospital” and Days of our lives” did you ever placed survey to find out who is watching this silly soaps. V/r [redacted]
I am wondering why your showing of morning shows is so limited (established} and Left wing based, it would be a great idea to show more Fox News programming not only to balance political views and also based on their higher ratings back home and within military viewers back in our CON US military bases. I also noticed that whenever there are LIVE Breaking News you mostly switch back to CNN ... when back CO NUS FoxNews actually has the higher ratings when it comes not only to breaking news but also for prime time and morning shows. It is clear that CNN, MSBC, NBC, CBS are left Bias and that Fox News is the only network Center Right Bias. I respectfully request that you find a balance in your programming accordingly especially during this election season that Is so important for us. I hate to pay for an AFN box that shows me 80% left views and 20% right views, not fair and not balanced. Thank you very much and God Bless, you all do a great job, I am just expressing my humble opinion.
I’m hoping that Congress Is responsible for your programming content. Otherwise I wonder about your decision to place so much MSNBC content on AFN. They are currently the 26th ranked cable channel who are only in business due to cable fees otherwise they couldn’t exist. Their overt anti-military positions just makes me wonder why AFN supports their programming so robustly. Meanwhile CNN Is number 22. I can’t admit to being a FoxNews acholyte but If required for news It at least Justifies my time as the #2 cable news network. Also your commercials are insanely painful. Please spend more time on military benefits and less on lifestyle decisions. Please everyone on the planet knows tobacco is bad four health. Honestly nobody Is listening especially since the invention of the mute button. Understand I spent 27 years in the military and over 7 years overseas and have shared my time of suffering. Awesome job providing sports programming however. Leave political correctness to college campus’. Please give the soldiers sailors and airmen the programming they want not what DC politicians want. Your kid programming Is great as well. Thanks you. I know you are doing your best under circumstances. You can be great.
Let me start by saying that I understand it is difficult to please everyone all of the time. AFN does a good job or mixing the news programming to encompass a wide range of political viewpoints, especially given that journalism is rarely objective anymore. This being said, please find substitute programming for Tavis Smiley airing at 0700L (GMT +9), as well as the show “United Shades or America,” which has been on midday for some time now. Neither one or these shows are news. Living In a foreign country it is difficult enough to stay abreast or what is happening in the U.S. We don’t need these shows clogging up the news channel. Tavis Smiley is a talk show and, besides, it already airs at 1200L on AFN Prime. You could literally play anything from any or the news networks and it would be an improvement, something as far right as Greg Gutfeld’s show, or Rachel Maddow (or the guy also on MSNBC that looks like Rachel Maddow). Regarding United Shades of America, we are stuck with the news channel at work so give us news! Thank you.
I am noticing AFN uses every opportunity to bump fox news during normal programming times when events happen in the world. Specifically, 16 July, three normal fox timeslots (0600, 1200, 1400) were replaced with CNN/MSNBC. I see this constantly with AFN. While I appreciate having AFN, I am starting to suspect there is an agenda to subvert a different point of view from the like-minded themes of CNN and MSNBC. I think it benefits service members to see points-of-view from all sides and CNN/MSNBC clearly lean in one direction politically. I work 12·14 hours a day and most weekends, so when I do have a Saturday I would like to see the programming that Is scheduled. Please tell me if this practice will continue. If so, I can find another service to use.
On the objectification of women on TV
I, an active duty female in maintenance, am upset at the fact that AFN Is airing the Victoria’s Secret swimsuit show curing prime time. This is women’s history month, nonetheless. Here we are in a military where we are trying to prevent a sexual assault environment to the point where even having a fitness magazine in our duty section is prohibited, yet we come home to relax and find this scheduled programming. If you are going to air all of the anti-sexual assault environment commercials, then why in the hell would you have this on your network ? After all, Victoria’s Secret epitomizes sexuality. And If the excuse that it is fashion show is used, then why weren’t any of the recent Fall 2016 fashion shows aired? Perhaps they just weren’t quite geared toward my male counterparts as you would like. I would really like to know the answer. Please, by all means feel free to contact me [redacted contact info and name]
On religious bias
This morning at 0630 kst I was watching AFN at the USO, while waiting for a tour. There was a clay animation film playing on AFN Pacific that was grossly offensive. It was directed to children. It was religiously biased preaching the violent Islamic ways to the children. There were clay figures dressed as stereotypes of several religions. The Islamic character was berating them while the crowd cheered. Please review this program to ensure it meets military values. I’m very glad my children weren’t present to be exposed to this.
Lately I have been hearing a religious song on AFN representing Christ. I think AFN should not play anything that solely represent one religion.
On inappropriate (and “retarded”) commercials
I am concerned about the commercials that you run during children’s programming. We are watching a kids movie and a sexual assault ad came on. This, along with other subjects, are not really kid friendly. Isn’t there a way to not air these types of commercials during kids programming or to keep them off the Family channel?
Please stop showing commercials on AFN dealing with sexual assault. The last conversation I wanted to have with my 7 year old daughter was what is sexual assault and why are we watch a commercial on It. There Is a time and place for these conversations and In between TV programs is NOT one of them.
Dear AFN, We receive your programing in our work center and In our barracks and for the most part, enjoy the shows and sports that are played. That being said, the commercials that are shown on your network are the most god awful, horrible, worthless, mind numbing. patronizing. insulting, garbage that has even been put on TV. I would rather strip naked, smear a thick mix of honey and chicken guts all over my body and then nail myself to a tree with (4) 13 inch long rusty railroad spikes that has a fire ant bed at the base of it, in a starving hyena cage in the 120 degree heat of Ramadi than to watch one more of your retarded commercials on safety, sexual assault or the myriad of other things that people that don’t have to actually fight for a living consider Important. The people In charge or airing the commercials should all take themselves outside to the tree line and haze themselves until all the worthless, bad decision making genes that inhabit their worthless disgusting bodies die.
I appreciate AFN and the variety of shows airing. It’s been about eight years since I’ve seen AFN. Now that I’m back overseas, I’m a little shocked at the lack to no sensoring. I get it If Its after 9pm, but before then? All age groups are watching. and I hate having to constantly keep one eve on the TV to monitor even the SAPR infomercials. Can you please show those after 9pm? My kids don’t need to ask me what sexual assault is when they are in elementary school. I just saw one tonight that showed a guy pushing a girl to the ground as he starts unbuckling his belt! These images are disturbing for kids. Also, please sensor the F-bomb throughout the day. There is also nudity that needs to be sensored. I’m just wondering who took over AFN, since the last time I saw it? I grew up with AFN Europe when they played Nick at Night and only historical facts were the infomercials. I get times have changed, but I’m barely out of my twenties, so I feel something is wrong since I don’t think I’m that old. I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’ve had other parents talk to me about this as well. They’re very concerned with the lack of morality shown on AFN. Some say, they just turn off. “AFN family” is no better than any of the other channels. What happened?? AFN needs to raise the bar at least before 9pm, please!!
More soccer please
Hello, Following AFN’s 15-20 minutes delay into the most important and most watched soccer match In the world this past Saturday evening (The Champions League Final), I am writing to sincerely request consideration for improved coverage of international soccer matches, to include Champions League, English Premier League, La Liga, and the upcoming 2016 Euro Cup. During NFL season, you are able to show up to 4 separate games on a given Sunday, which is excellent. Would you consider increasing your soccer coverage? Perhaps channel 1 (sports, non-HD) could be soccer, while a different sport could be shown on Channel 11 (sports, HD). Many of these matches are shown on Fox or NBCSports, networks from which AFN features other programming. Many of us are posted in places where soccer is the ONLY sport that matters. So increasing soccer coverage would be beneficial in two key ways. First, It would encourage broader understanding of the world’s most popular sport by USG personnel serving abroad, helping to encourage cultural understanding and immersion. Second, more USG personnel would be inclined to host events for friends and contacts in our host countries, which would serve USG interests across the board. Lastly, if you are not able to commit to expanding soccer coverage, please work to ensure that future matches that are featured or such high nature as the Champions League Final, are not preempted by other, less important matches, such as early round French Open Coverage. Also, in general, AFN is an amazing tool that most certainly serves to lift morale and bring us lust a bit of the comforts or home. My wife and I really appreciate it at our current hardship post. Respectfully, [redacted]
On offensive songs
As a father to my children and mentor to my airmen I feel compelled to make a complaint regarding content of music played on AFN I heard last week, which should be family-friendly in my opinion. I recently found this reasonable standard violated as I listened to lyrics talking about a man sucking on his girlfriend’s breast in the morning while listening to AFN. I feel compelled to register a complaint for such explicit, sexual language on an AFN station. How can I submit this concern to remedy this problem and better ensure decent lyrical content is broadcasted over AFN to our personal and collective Air Force families. Thank you.
I am an AAFES employee on Ramstein Air Base and a spouse of an active duty military member. I would like to express my concern and disappointment with some of the content permitted on AFN. I feel that there is a discrepancy between established Air Force standards and the content of some of the music played on AFN. I am personally shocked and offended by the the prevalence of both sexual themes and lyrics and swearing in the songs played on AFN. It is troubling to me that the Air Force has a noble tradition of professionalism and excellence in all that it does, yet AFN does not adhere to these standards by virtue of offensive content in the music that it plays. I feel that it is inappropriate for songs with sexual lyrics and swear words to be played in a public work environment as it is disrespectful to both employees and patrons who find such content to be offensive. I am deeply troubled and concerned by this lack of professionalism and respect, and I would like to raise this issue on behalf of others who feel the same way. I expected a station that bears the name of the Air Force to represent it in a more professional, positive way.
I wish to protest most strongly over I song I heard on AFN radio. This morning at approximately 1045 (CET) I was in the USAG Brussels Belgian Fitness Center and the song that I heard playing had the lyrics, “will the bitch come back”. This phrase was repeated at least a dozen times so I can only conclude that It was part of the refrain and possibly even the title of the song. There was also a comment on “balls” as well as a version of the “f” word. I could not believe my ears. I asked the associate in the Center if she was broadcasting an AFN station and she said that she was. She also said that AFN has several streams of music and she had picked this one. She immediately changed to another one. In view of the Department of Defense campaign on preventing sexual abuse and violence, I cannot believe how such a song would even be played. Secondly how would the person who selected this song or who authorized its playing would react if someone called his mother, wife or sweetheart a bitch. Sincerely, [redacted]
I have noticed a trend over the past several weeks regarding the choice of programming broadcast on the AFN radio station each morning. There Is a high frequency or sexually explicit music played in the early morning hours. So much so that I have to frequently change the station while taking my kids to school. Granted, any actual cursing Is silenced out but the message is still there. Please review the programming during the hours that kids are likely to be shuttled to/from school to ensure that it’s appropriate programming. Furthermore, I would also look at the programming across the board to see If we’re actually giving tacit approval of sexual assault/sexual harassment behavior based on the music AFN promotes.
We are constantly inundated with sexual harassment ads on radio and TV. However, songs like those with the lyrics below are allowed to be played. How does this song not contradict the message of preventing sexual harassment you are send. No I am not prejudiced, this song should be offensive to anyone with a brain. My anaconda don’t, my anaconda don’t My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns. hun Boy toy named Troy used to live In Detroit Big dope dealer money, he was gettin’ some coins Was In shootouts with the law, but he live In a palace Bought me Alexander McQueen. he was keeping me stylish Now that’s real, real, real Gun In my purse, bitch, I came dressed to kill Who wanna go Orst? I had them pushing daffodils I’m high as hell. I only took a half a pill I’m on some dumb shit. by the way, what he say? He can tell I ain’t missing no meals Come through and fuck him In my automobile Let him eat It with his grills and he tellin’ me to chill And he telling me It’s real, that he love my sex appeal Say he don’t like ‘em boney, he want something he can grab So I pulled up In the Jag. and I hit him with the fab like Dun-d-d·dun-doo-il·d·dun·dun My anaconda don’t, my anaconda don’t My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun Oh my gosh, look at her butt Oh my gosh. look at her butt Oh my gosh, look at her butt (Look at her butt) look at, look at, look at Loolr;, at her butt This dude named Michael used to ride motorcycles Dick bigger than a tower, I ain’t talking about Eiffel’s Real country-ass nigga, let me play with his rifle Pussy put his ass to sleep, now he calling me NyQuil Now that bang. bang. bang I let him hit it cause he slang cocaine He toss my salad like his name Romaine And when we done, I malte hkn buy me Balmaln I’m on some dumb shit, by the way, what he say? He can tell I ain’t missing no meals Come through and fuclt him In my automobile Let him eat it with his grlOs. and he telling me to chill And he telling me It’s real, that he love my sex appeal He say he don’t Uke ‘em boney, he want something he can grab So I pulled up In the Jag. Mayweather with the Jab like Oun-d·d·durrdun-d·d-dun·dun My anaconda don’t, my anaconda don’t My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun Oh my gosh, look at her butt Oh my gosh, look at her butt Oh my gosh, look at her butt (Look at her butt) Look at, look at, look at Look. at her butt little In the middle but she got much back little In the middle but she got much back little In the middle but she got much back (Oh my God, look at her butt) My anaconda don’t, my anaconda don’t My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun My anaconda don’t. my anaconda don’t Don’t want none unless you got buns, hun Oh my gosh, look at her butt Oh my gosh, look at her butt Oh my gosh, look at her butt (Look at her butt) Look at, look at, look at Look, at her butt Yeah, he love this fat ass, hahahal Yeah I This one Is for my bitches with a fat ;iss In the fucking dub I said, where my fat ass big bitches In the ciub? Fuck the skinny bitches! Fuck the skinny bitches In the dubl I wanna see all the big fat ass bitches In the muthafuckin’ dub Fuck you If you skinny bitches, what?! Kyuh Haha, haha I got a big fat ass (ass, ass. ass) Come on!