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New radio service connects families with troops overseas

The British Forces Broadcasting Service's radio programmes, already well known and loved by British troops overseas, will, from Monday morning, be available permanently on DAB Digital Radio across Great Britain.

Sim Courtie's Breakfast Show will kick-off the new digital service at 0700hrs on Monday 20 April 2009, which will further connect British troops serving overseas with friends and family back in the UK, with many of the radio programmes being aired simultaneously in the UK and across the Forces' world.

The British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) was established in Africa during the Second World War and has now grown into a worldwide radio and television service covering 23 countries where British Forces are based, including Afghanistan, the Falkland Islands, Germany and Iraq.

A live satellite service also broadcasts to Royal Navy ships at sea.

BFBS Radio provides three 24-hour radio channels for the British Forces. The main BFBS Radio channel is a mix of contemporary music, news and sport aimed at keeping Service personnel and their families in touch with each other.

BFBS Radio features lots of messages ('blueys') and has a mixture of programmes produced on overseas stations and at BFBS UK and Northern Ireland.

BFBS Alternative Listening is a mix of homegrown programmes and BBC news and sport. The Today Programme from Radio 4 and Five Live sport can be found there.

BFBS Gurkha Radio provides a three-way link between Gurkha soldiers and their families in Nepal, the UK and Brunei, along with operational areas such as Afghanistan and Iraq. It's a mixture of Nepali and English language programming.

In total, BFBS Radio often runs more than a dozen radio sequences simultaneously; the exact number depends on where British Forces are currently based.

The mission of the radio service according to Group Programme Director Damian Watson is to connect the British Forces community. He says:

"We keep the British Forces in touch with home and with each other - simple as that. We live in an age when servicemen and women in even the most remote and hostile environments can get access to most forms of media. Yet there is still nothing quite like a message on the radio from your wife, mum, children, best mate - whoever - to make you laugh or cry.

"Radio's a personal medium, which is why it's still vital - especially for British servicemen and women a long way from home."

The New DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) service will help realise this mission by making the service even more accessible to British troops' friends and families at home in the UK.

In a letter to the BFBS, the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, said:

"I am delighted that the DAB Digital Radio initiative is taking off so quickly; the capability it will deliver in reaching so many of the Service Community is invaluable. I welcome the fact that while Forces personnel and their families overseas are kept in touch through the current service, it is those in the United Kingdom that will now be kept informed through their own Forces radio station. I am a keen supporter of BFBS on Digital."

The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, added his support, saying:

"The provision of BFBS Radio across the United Kingdom is a positive step forward, not only for Service personnel, but also for their partners, families and friends."

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, said:

"This will be warmly welcomed by the wider RAF community across the UK. I look forward to the BFBS audience expanding even further."

BFBS Radio undertook a three-month trial on DAB in the UK in early 2008 and conducted detailed audience research that indicated an audience of more than 850,000 people a week in Britain listened to its mix of Forces news, music requests and dedications. Controller Charles Foster said:

"BFBS Radio exists to connect the Forces Community. We've done that overseas for more than sixty years but now we're coming home. We'll continue to broadcast to the Forces and their families in Germany, Cyprus and around the world but our main focus now has to be operational areas and the vast majority of the Service Community in the United Kingdom, including veterans."

The Services' Sound & Vision Corporation, the charity that has run the BFBS Radio and Television contract since 1983, is funding the DAB service.

Charles Foster is confident that BFBS Radio will be a success in the tough UK radio market:

"We have some hugely talented presenters, we play fantastic music, we pack our programmes full of unique Forces news and reports and, most importantly, we connect a unique audience across the world. And according to the audience research last year, we are a little quirky, which people like! Tell your family and friends to tune in!"

In addition to its new DAB service, and its broadcasts around the world, BFBS Radio is also available online at, on Sky Guide Number 0211 and Freesat Channel 786.


20th Apr 2009

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