by J.J. Smith
The Pentagon Channel, the television channel broadcasting military news and information for the 2.6 million members of the U.S. Armed Forces, is moving during the summer of 2011 from its location in Northern Virginia to Fort Meade, Md., said Brian Natwick, the Pentagon Channel’s general manager.
In addition to moving to Fort Meade “through July and August,” the Pentagon Channel is “going to go full HD (high definition) at that time,” and will broadcast over DirectTV not long after the move, said Natwick.
The Pentagon Channel is U.S. Department of Defense’s cable television channel and is headquartered in Alexandria, Va. about four miles south of the Pentagon. When it moves to Fort Meade, it will be located between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. The move is part of the “Base Realignment and Closure” (BRAC) policy, which is directing the closure of excess military installations.
In addition to moving and converting to HD, the Pentagon Channel will do a “DirectTV launch in September (2011)”, Natwick said. DirectTV is an all-digital subscriber service. By broadcasting over DirectTV, the Pentagon Channel will reach “over 50 million households within the continental U.S.,” Natwick said.
Launched in 2003, the channel is currently available to more than 1 million service members who live and work on 333 military bases, camps and installations in the U.S., as well as to U.S. service members and their families serving overseas in 177 countries, Natwick said.
The main programming focus of the Pentagon Channel is news and information, which Natwick describes as “a mix between CNN and C-SPAN.” The news and information side of the Pentagon Channel “is what is called in the DOD, ‘command information,’” he said. However, in addition to its traditional programming, the channel provides entertainment that seeks to provide “a taste of home to the men and woman stationed abroad,” he said.
Within the continental U.S. the channel is producing a series of lifestyle programs, including a cooking show called “Grill Sergeant”; a fitness show called “Fit for Duty”; and a monthly 30 minute documentary show called “Recon,” Natwick said.In addition, the channel recently covered the armed forces’ boxing championships, but “it’s not your traditional HBO style boxing show,” Natwick said. The boxing matches are surrounded with information about training, and with programming about the boxing programs in the DOD and the armed forces giving it “a different flavor,” he said.
While the channel’s shows are generally targeted at the military, some shows are targeted further still, he said citing a show called “FNG” (“For the New Guy”) which is aimed at new members of the military ages 18 to 24.
The Pentagon Channel’s programming is relayed from satellite feeds, to ground feeds with material arriving from all over the world in many different ways, which presents a challenge, Natwick said. Shows are placed into an East Coast primetime slot, and, because the channel is global, the shows are not time shifted, he said. “The first and foremost priority is the East Coast prime-time slot, and where it shifts into Afghanistan, we make that second,” he said. “So we’ll do entertainment, lifestyle, and boxing in the mornings and in the evenings,” he said. However, if major news occurs and “we’re broadcasting boxing, then boxing goes away.”