British Forces Broadcasting Service

British Forces Broadcasting Service

The British Forces Broadcasting Service was established by the British War Office (now the Ministry of Defence) in 1943. Today it provides radio and television programmes for HM Forces, and their dependents, in Afghanistan, Belize, Bosnia, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Gibraltar, Kosovo, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland as well as a live satellite service to Royal Navy ships at sea.

Since the 1980s, BFBS has formed part of the Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC), a registered charity, which is also responsible for the British Defence Film Library, SSVC Cinemas, and Combined Services Entertainment, providing entertainment for HM Forces around the world. Neither BFBS Radio nor BFBS Television carry commercial advertising.


BFBS Radio broadcasts on local FM and other frequencies, and recently DAB in the UK on a trial basis. There are now three BFBS Radio services:

* BFBS Radio - contemporary music and local community radio
* BFBS Radio 2 - popular music, news, current affairs and sport
* BFBS Radio Gurkha - programming for Gurkhas

BFBS Radio broadcasts to service personnel and their families all over the world with radio studios and staff in Belize, Belgium, Bosnia, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Gibraltar, The Falkland Islands, Iraq, Kosovo, The Netherlands and Northern Ireland. In addition, BFBS radio is heard by troops in Afghanistan, Oman and Ascension Island as well as onboard Royal Navy ships at sea live via satellite, on the world wide web from its website and on Sky Digital channel 0211.

Many of the programmes on Radio 2 are sourced from BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Five Live, including the soap opera "The Archers", which was popular in Hong Kong until BFBS ceased broadcasting after the handover to China in 1997. BFBS Radio also provides programmes in Gurkhali, for the Gurkha units serving with the British Army.

At midnight on Saturday 12 January 2008, BFBS Radio began a trial period of broadcasting nationwide across the UK on DAB, which ran until 23:59 on 31 March 2008. Although audience research carried out during the trial concluded that it was successful, the decision has been made that a permanent DAB broadcast of the station is not currently viable. []


BFBS Television started in Germany in 1975, using taped broadcasts from the BBC and ITV, but now broadcasts live via satellite. Videotapes are still sent to forces serving in more remote areas. There is also a service known as BFBS Navy TV, which broadcasts time-shifted versions of the channel to Royal Navy vessels around the world via military satellite.

Most programmes come from the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, including news from BBC News, Sky News, ITN, and sport from BBC Sport and Sky Sports. BFBS also has its own programmes, including the magazine programme "BFBS Reports", the lifestyle programme "Hung, Drawn and Quartered" and the children's request programme "Room 785".

BFBS Television is encrypted in some areas for copyright reasons, as it is intended solely for HM Forces and their families. Until 1997, it was widely available in Cyprus, but its signal is now encrypted or restricted to the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia as local broadcasters had bought local rights to show English football. However, it is watched by civilians in the Falkland Islands, where it is the only terrestrial TV service. Since 2001 there have been two BFBS Television services:

* BFBS 1 - general entertainment, sport, news, documentary programming - for a more general audience
* BFBS 2 - general entertainment, sport - the so-called 'lads channel', available in operational areas only

A combined version of these two called "BFBS Navy TV" is available on some naval vessels.

Since 2005, BFBS has also distributed commercial networks The Hits, Sky News, Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 to certain areas. It also plans to start a movie channel in 2008, using money that it has saved following the English Premier League's decision to waive the £250,000 rights fee. []

In the early 1960s a BFBS Engineer called John Bull promoted the idea that BFBS could have a Television Broadcast service for a relatively low cost and demonstrated this by building his own Television Station broadcasting from his home in Nicosia, Cyprus two nights a week. Despite successfully proving the point he failed to convince the management at the time and so another 10 years passed before BFBS eventually had a Television service.


* Alan Grace: "This Is the British Forces Network. The Story of Forces Broadcasting in Germany." Stroud (1996) ISBN 0-7509-1105-0
* Alan Grace: "The Link With Home. 60 Years of Forces Radio." Chalfont (2003) ISBN 0-9522135-1-6
* Doreen Taylor: "A Microphone and a Frequency. Forty Years of Forces Broadcasting." London (1983) ISBN 0-434-75710-1 and ISBN 0-434-75711-X
* Oliver Zöllner: "BFBS: 'Freund in der Fremde'. British Forces Broadcasting Service (Germany) - der britische Militärrundfunk in Deutschland." Göttingen (1996) [in German] ISBN 3-89588-632-7.
* Oliver Zöllner: Forces Broadcasting: A 'Friend' Abroad. In: "Communications", Vol. 21 (1996), issue 4, pp. 447-466 ISSN 0341-2059

ee also

* BFBS Lisburn
* American Forces Network
* Canadian Forces Radio and Television
* Israel Army Radio

External links

* [ BFBS Radio]
* [ BFBS Television]
* [ SWDXER] ¨The SWDXER¨ - with general SWL information and radio antenna tips.

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