American Forces Network (AFN) analogue TV broadcasts at three locations in Japan will go off the air next week ahead of moves by Japan to end all analogue TV broadcasts by 24 July.

AFN Iwakuni and AFN Okinawa will end over-the-air analogue broadcasts on Thursday, with AFN Misawa switching off its analogue signal on Friday, according to AFN Japan commander Major David Westover.

These outlets carry AFN’s Prime Pacific channel, which broadcasts American dramas, sitcoms, talk shows news and reality television along with locally produced news and information. The channel will continue to be available to people watching on-base cable or through AFN satellite decoders. Station officials in each location have notified their audience through information campaigns and television and radio spots over the past two weeks, according to Westover.

The move is part of Japan's digital switchover. According to Japan’s Association for Promotion of Digital Broadcasting, analogue television broadcasts will cease on 24 July in all parts of the country except the Tohoku region, which bore the brunt of the 11 March earthquake.

“Even if AFN wanted to broadcast over-the-air the government of Japan has mandated the termination of all analogue TV,” said Westover.

The move to digital television will not affect viewers living on US bases in Japan and Okinawa who will still be able to view a number of Japanese channels, even using old-style analogue televisions, because on-base cable companies will convert the new digital broadcast to a US analogue signal.

While the move will not affect on-base viewers, there is one big change coming to those customers this year: AFN Sports will begin broadcasting in high definition the end of the year, US Navy Captain Herman Phillips, commander of Defense Media Activity field operations, said in an e-mail. “Our intent is to upgrade our delivery systems and eventually deliver more HD programming during the next two to four years,” he said. “However, this depends on future funding that is uncertain at this time.”