WASHINGTON: The Department of Defense's(DoD) internal television station became a little less internal last month, as EchoStar's DISH Network began offering The Pentagon Channel to its 11 million subscribers.
The channel launched in May 2004 and was initially accessible only from military installations and on its Web site. It was first made available to the general public in August 2004, when Time Warner Cable began carrying it.
"The Pentagon Channel will be especially appreciated by military service members and their families who live on or near US-based military facilities," stated Eric Sahl, vice president of programming at EchoStar, in a news release.
Allison Barber, a DoD civilian who heads up the channel, said that expanding the channel to cable and satellite providers allows military personnel who aren't necessarily on a military facility to access vital information.
But the channel's expansion has faced criticism from some who see the network as DoD propaganda.
Columnist Arianna Huffington recently branded the channel "Rummy TV" and attacked the Bush administration for "distributing and producing their own news network."
The channel has scheduled programming including live DoD and congressional briefings, as well as internally produced programs.
Those programs include "Why I Serve," which are vignettes featuring military personnel; "America Supports You," an informational campaign highlight corporate and volunteer support of the military; and "Freedom Journal Iraq," which features news on missions in Iraq.
According to Barber, the channel's budget for its first year totaled around $6 million, which includes startup costs. Only $4 million is slated for its second year.