I’m not one to complain about the Armed Forces Network – AFN has been a part of my life since the early 1970s, when we were living in Germany and it would basically play during prime time until around midnight, when they would end with the national anthem before going off air. Now there are around ten channels dedicated to a variety of genres, and they play 24/7, 365 days a year. And they’re not just for the military anymore – as a diplomat living in southern Africa, we have the option of buying a decoder and enjoying U.S. programming, normally 24 hours after it plays in the States.
But there’s one thing every AFN viewer learns to love or hate: those AFN commercials that play over and over and over, to the point that nearly everyone in my family has memorized the dialogue in many of them. For legal reasons, the commercials that play in the States must all be replaced by public service announcements, educational spots, little quizzes, and news snippets about the military. The military encourages us to do – or not do – all sorts of things. Register to vote, wear a bike helmet, speak to your chaplain, don’t drink and drive – you get the idea. It sometimes feels like propaganda, but we know it’s for our own good (haha). People love to poke fun at them, but no one really complains except at Super Bowl time when we miss out on those commercials. On the positive side? We didn’t have to watch a single campaign video.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of my most – and least, favorite AFN commercials. To give you a flavor of what’s on offer, this is a typical commercial break, which includes a couple of the more irritating public service announcements we get to watch on a regular basis.
The “stop using smokeless tobacco” spots that have replaced the “stop smoking” spots from just a few years ago and seem to be on constantly. Especially pleasant if you’re eating dinner in front of TV. Then the hilarious exercise series that all show someone gasping for air after a mundane task. Mother nature telling us to pick up after ourselves is one of the more irritating spots, in my opinion. Then we have a TV spot telling us about the military news we can see on the internet – to augment the website that tells us what we can see on TV. Finally, we get some feelgood stories about military heroes and a spot honoring veterans, and the designated driver spots are also quite common. No idea if they work, but I understand through a variety of campaigns, the military has cut down on drinking and driving, as well as drinking overall. Keep an eye out for some of the spots we’ll highlight in the coming weeks!
Then we have