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Arizona City Helps Get Military News to State

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

PEORIA, Ariz., Dec. 19, 2007 – Arizona cable subscribers will soon have access to the latest military news from the comfort of their living rooms, thanks to an agreement between an Arizona city and a national cable provider.

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Ivan Johnson, Cox Communication's vice president of public affairs and business development, addresses the Peoria City Council on Dec. 18, 2007. The northwestern Arizona city was preparing to vote on amending its franchise agreement with the cable provider. The amendment, which passed unanimously, allows Cox to provide 24/7 broadcast of the Pentagon Channel to its digital subscribers statewide. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley

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The Peoria City Council amended its cable franchise agreement with Cox Communications during a city council meeting last night. The change will allow the cable provider to share the city’s Pentagon Channel broadcast with Cox digital customers in the state.

Peoria was the first city in the state to offer the Pentagon Channel 24 hours a day to Cox cable customers, Peoria Mayor Bob Barrett said.

“We’re not aware of … (another) exchange of a PEG channel, a public education and government channel, for a systemwide broadcast of the Pentagon Channel,” said John Schell, director of intergovernmental affairs, who was instrumental in bring about the agreement between Peoria and Cox. “From that respect, it’s certainly historic for the city of Peoria and the state of Arizona, and it probably is for the rest of the country.”

Schell was instrumental in bring about the agreement between Peoria and Cox Communications.

Ivan Johnson, vice president of public affairs and business development for Cox Communications, said the cable provider was excited about the agreement with Peoria.

“We’re actually taking it from channel 98 up to channel 122. In being able to do that, we’re going to take it statewide,” he said. “We will get it to Tucson, … all of the Phoenix area, and then, by the end of next year if we finish rebuilding some of our network, will be down to Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca.”

While Johnson said his company offers the troops support in many ways, the agreement to provide the Pentagon Channel to all its digital cable subscribers just makes sense, he said.

The Pentagon Channel currently is available in 178 countries to 2.6 million active-duty, National Guard and reserve troops, and 650,000 Defense Department civilians. Sailors and Marines on 185 Navy vessels at sea also have access to Pentagon Channel programming. When Cox extends its broadcast of the Pentagon Channel to Fort Huachuca, Ariz., it will reach 600,000 homes, Johnson said.

Servicemembers and their families, whether serving at home or abroad, especially value the military news channel, Peoria’s mayor said. He found positive proof of this while visiting relatives serving in Germany.

“They did with the Pentagon Channel what most of us here in the states do with CNN: You turn it on, and you leave it on in the background,” Barrett said. “If a point of interest comes up, you turn it up and watch it, and then you turn it back down.

“It’s the only way for people in the military to get unbiased, clean, clear news that’s not filtered through any other news organization or any other country’s news organization,” he added.

With Arizona’s large military presence, the channel also is important to the state’s many civilians working at military installations, Barrett said. The Pentagon Channel provides a way to keep up with what’s happening to them.

Barrett said he hopes his city’s agreement with Cox Communications will have other states following suit and finding a way to provide the news station to its residents. “I’m really hoping the Cox system will understand what they’re doing and how important this is, and in all the states where they have service, hopefully the same thing will happen,” he said.

The evening also included recognition of city employees who are serving or have served in the military. About 50 of the 200 employees the city identified were on hand to stand and be recognized for their service and sacrifice. They had received dog tags featuring Peoria’s insignia on one side and the America Supports You logo on the other prior to the ceremony.

“When I came back from Vietnam, it was a different world than it is now. We can’t do that to our people again,” Barrett said. “I don’t care what you think about the war in terms of the politics of it. I don’t care if you think it’s right or wrong. Don’t treat our people like that.

“That’s why America Supports You is such a wonderful program,” he added, referencing the Defense Department program that connects citizens and corporations with military personnel serving at home and abroad.

Earlier, Pro Tem Mayor Joan Evans had said the night’s recognition was a great way to display the city’s support of the troops. She directed individuals looking for ways to support the troops to the America Supports You Web site, which features links to troop-support groups.

Arizona Rep. John Nelson, who chairs the state’s Military Affairs Committee, said people’s opinions of the war don’t seem to be influencing their support of the troops.

“What I’ve seen in the last three or four years is just an outpouring (of support),” Nelson said. “I don’t care what their opinions are if they get involved and work to help the military.”

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Related Sites:
The Pentagon Channel
America Supports You

Click photo for screen-resolution imagePeoria, Ariz., Mayor Bob Barrett (center) talks to residents about the importance of recognizing sacrifices the nation's servicemembers are making, during a city council meeting Dec. 18, 2007. Those in the audience were directed to the America Supports You Web site to find ways to show their support of the troops. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageCity of Peoria, Ariz., employees are recognized for their military service, past or present, during a city council meeting Dec. 18, 2007. Luke Air Force Base is near the northwestern Arizona city and enjoys staunch support from the city’s residents. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Brig. Gen. Tom Jones, commander of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., is recognized after speaking to the Peoria City Council on Dec. 18, 2007. He thanked the council for its support of the nation’s servicemembers. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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