British Forces Broadcasting Service

The British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) provides radio and television programmes for His Majesty's Armed Forces, and their dependents worldwide. Editorial control is independent of the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces themselves.

British Forces Broadcasting Service
TypeArmed forces media (UK)
Founded1943 (1943)
Broadcast area
  • United Kingdom
  • Bahrain
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • Cyprus
  • Germany
  • Gibraltar
  • Falkland Islands
Key people
Simon Bucks (CEO)
Former names
Forces Broadcasting Service
British Forces Network
BFBS Radio
See list
Official website

It was established by the British War Office (now the Ministry of Defence) in 1943. In 1944, it was managed by Gale Pedrick.[1]


Former logo, used until March 2020

Originally known as the Forces Broadcasting Service (FBS), it was initially under the control of the British Army Welfare Service, its first effort, the Middle East Broadcasting Unit, being headquartered in Cairo.[2]

Before and after the end of the Second World War various radio stations were set up, some using the FBS name, others using the name British Forces Network (BFN), but by the early 1960s these had all adopted the BFBS name.[3]

From 1982 until 2020, BFBS 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 (now BFBS Cinemas), and Combined Services Entertainment (CSE; now BFBS Live Events), providing entertainment for HM Forces around the world. In March 2020, most of the properties under the SSVC umbrella were rebranded under the new BFBS and Forces brandings.[4] On 23 July 2020, SSVC was renamed BFBS.[5][6] BFBS does not carry commercial advertising.[7]

BFBS Radio

BFBS Radio
IndustryMass media
Founded1943; 80 years ago
Chalfont Grove Teleport, Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
Area served
ServicesRadio broadcasting
Revenue24,739,000 pound sterling (2017) 
Number of employees
213 (2017) 
ParentBritish Forces Broadcasting Service

BFBS Radio operates 22 radio stations, broadcast on a combination of local DAB, FM and AM frequencies, online and on digital television.[8] BFBS Radio is a music, news, entertainment and community service providing bespoke content to the global Forces Community with a focus on Forces News and connecting the Forces communities around the world.


BFBS broadcasts to service personnel and their families and friends worldwide with local radio studios in Belize, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, Nepal and operational areas.[9] In addition, BFBS the Forces Station[10] is heard by troops in Ascension Island, Bahrain, Belgium, Bosnia, Estonia, and the Netherlands, as well as onboard Royal Navy ships at sea via live satellite links, online at BFBS Radio, on Sky channel 0211 in the United Kingdom only, via an Astra 2 transponder and on Freesat channel 786.

From 12 January 2008, BFBS began a trial period of broadcasting nationwide across the UK on DAB, which ran until 31 March 2008. Audience research carried out during the trial concluded that it was successful and broadcasts continued for eight years[11] until 6 March 2017 when the service ceased due to the cost to the charity SSVC.[12]

On 1 April 2013, BFBS began a new 10-year contract for to supply all forces broadcasting service to British troops around the world and expanded its service to UK army bases formerly served by Garrison Radio.[13] BFBS UK base stations now serve local communities in Aldershot (DAB), Aldergrove (DAB), Blandford (DAB), Bovington (DAB), Brize Norton (DAB), Bulford (DAB), Catterick (DAB), Colchester (DAB), Edinburgh (DAB), Fort George (DAB), Holywood (DAB), Inverness (DAB), Lisburn (DAB), and Portsmouth (DAB).[10]


Bespoke news bulletins are broadcast every hour, 24 hours a day, utilising content from BBC News, IRN and BFBS's own team of Forces News reporters. The standard bulletin is three minutes long, with extended ten-minute Newsplus programmes on weekdays at 0400, 0700, 1100, 1300 and 1700 UK time. Two-minute-long news and sport headlines are broadcast on the half-hour during breakfast programming. Bulletins are broadcast around the clock on BFBS the Forces Station and BFBS Gurkha Radio, and during BFBS Radio 2's music programming.

Many of the programmes on BFBS Radio 2 are sourced from BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 5 Live, including the soap opera The Archers, which was popular in Hong Kong until BFBS Radio ceased broadcasting on 30 June 1997 before the handover to China.[14] BFBS UK is a contemporary hit 'pop' station. It is similar in style to BBC Radio 2, playing current music and chat, as well as regular news bulletins.

On 31 May 2010, BBC Radio 1 teamed up with BFBS to transmit the 10-hour takeover show from Camp Bastion with BFBS presenters and shout outs from the military community.[15] It repeated the link-up in 2011.[16]

In December 2011, the UK's Smooth Radio broadcast its national breakfast show, presented by Simon Bates, from the BFBS studios in Camp Bastion.[17][18][19] On 8 April 2012, Easter Sunday, BFBS simulcast a two-hour show with Smooth, presented jointly by Bates and BFBS's Rachel Cochrane, allowing family and friends of serving troops to connect with their loved ones.[20]

BFBS Radio stations

BFBS currently has three main stations: BFBS the Forces Station (each with regional content), BFBS Radio 2 and BFBS Radio Gurkha. In addition, there are themed online stations under the BFBS branding; they are BFBS Beats, BFBS Rewind, BFBS Best of British, BFBS Edge and Samishran.

BFBS Gurkha Radio broadcasts on AM and DAB in selected UK locations as well as on FM in the Falkland Islands, Afghanistan, Brunei, Nepal, Belize and on Ops. It provides programmes in Nepali, for the Gurkha units serving with the British Army.[21]

BFBS broadcast in Malta until 25 March 1979, when British forces left the islands.[22] It ceased broadcasts from Berlin on 15 July 1994, following the end of the Cold War, German reunification, and the withdrawal of British forces from the city, after 33 years.[23] The BFBS Berlin frequency was given up on 12 December 1994. BFBS also broadcast on FM in Belize, from Airport Camp near Belize City.[24] These broadcasts could also be received in eastern parts of Guatemala.[25] It ceased broadcasting in Belize in August 2011.[26] The station re-opened in 2016.[27]

BFBS UKContemporary music, speech
BFBS Radio 2Popular music, news, sportBFBS Radioplayer
BFBS GurkhaProgramming for Gurkhas
  • FM: 105.4 (Shorncliffe)
  • FM: 106.8 (Bulford)
  • AM: 1134 kHz Abingdon, Bramcote, Catterick, Sandhurst
  • AM: 1278 kHz Shorncliffe, Stafford, Tidworth, Warminster
  • AM: 1287 kHz Aldershot, Blandford, Brecon, Hullavington, Innsworth, Maidstone
BFBS Ascension Island Local service BFBS Radio

FM: 107.3 (Green Mountain) FM: 100.9 (Travellers Hill) BFBS Radio 2 FM: 105.3 (Green Mountain) FM: 97.3 (Travellers Hill)

BFBS Bahrain Local service BFBS Radio

FM: 99.1

BFBS Belgium Local service BFBS Radio

FM: 107.7 (SHAPE)

BFBS Belize Local service BFBS Radio

FM: 94.3 BFBS Radio 2 FM: 96.3 BFBS Gurkha Network FM: 98.3

BFBS Bosnia Local service BFBS Radio

FM: 102.0 (Butmir Camp) BFBS Radio 2 FM: 106.9 (Butmir Camp)

BFBS BruneiLocal serviceBFBS Radio

FM: 101.7 (Seria) BFBS Gurhka Network
FM: 89.5 (Seria)

FM: 92.0 (Sitang Camp)

BFBS Radioplayer
BFBS Canada
Local serviceBFBS Radio

FM: 104.1 (Ralston Village / BATUS)

FM: 98.1 (CFB Suffield A-Line)

BFBS Radioplayer
BFBS CyprusLocal serviceBFBS Radio

FM: 89.9 (Akrotiri) FM: 91.7 (Ayios Nikolaos) FM: 91.7 (Nicosia) FM: 99.6 (Dhekelia) BFBS Radio 2 FM: 92.1 (Akrotiri) FM: 89.7 (Ayios Nikolaos) FM: 89.7 (Nicosia) FM: 95.3 (Dhekelia)

BFBS Radioplayer
BFBS Estonia Local service BFBS Radio

FM: 94.9 (Camp Tapa) BFBS Radio 2 FM: 89.2 (Camp Tapa)

BFBS FalklandsLocal serviceBFBS Radio

FM: 102.4 (Byron Heights, Mount Alice, Mount Kent) FM: 98.5 (MPA) FM: 91.1 (Sapper Hill) BFBS Radio 2 FM: 104.2 (Byron Heights, Mount Alice, Mount Kent) FM: 93.8 (MPA) FM: 94.5 (Sapper Hill)

BFBS Radioplayer
BFBS GermanyLocal serviceBFBS Radio

FM: 91.7 (Friedrichdorf) FM 101.6 (Herford) FM: 96.6 (Porta Westfalia) FM: 105.0 (Sennelager) BFBS Radio 2 FM: 89.6 (Porta Westfalia) FM: 91.2 (Sennelager)

BFBS Radioplayer
BFBS GibraltarLocal serviceBFBS Radio

FM: 97.8 (O'Haras Battery) FM: 93.5 (Oyster Cottage) BFBS Radio 2 FM: 99.5 (O'Haras Battery) FM: 89.4 (Oyster Cottage)

BFBS Radioplayer
BFBS NepalLocal serviceBFBS Gurkha Network

FM: 105.7 (Kathmandu)

FM: 107.5 (Dharan Town Area)
BFBS Radioplayer
BFBS Netherlands Local service BFBS Radio

FM: 90.2 (Brunssum)

BFBS AldershotLocal service
  • DAB+: SSDAB (Aldershot/Woking)
  • FM: 102.5 MHz
BFBS BlandfordLocal service
  • FM: 89.3 MHz
BFBS Brize NortonLocal serviceFM: 106.1 MHz
BFBS Bovington Local service FM: 100.8 MHz
BFBS Bulford Local service FM: 106.8 MHz
BFBS CatterickLocal serviceFM: 106.9 MHz
BFBS ColchesterLocal serviceFM: 107.0 MHz
BFBS Northern IrelandLocal service
  • FM: 106.5 MHz (Aldergrove)
  • FM: 100.6 MHz (Lisburn)
  • FM: 101.0 MHz (Holywood)
BFBS Salisbury PlainLocal serviceDAB+: SSDAB (Salisbury Plain)

FM: 106.8 MHz

BFBS ScotlandLocal service
  • FM: 98.5 MHz (Edinburgh)
  • FM: 87.7 MHz (Inverness & Fort George)
  • FM: 94.0 MHz (Glencorse)
BFBS BeatsRhythmic contemporaryBFBS Radioplayer
BFBS EdgeRock and indie musicBFBS Radioplayer
BFBS RewindClassic hitsBFBS Radioplayer
BFBS Best of BritishBest of British musicBFBS Radioplayer
BFBS SamishranNepali and Hindi musicBFBS Radioplayer

BFBS Television

BFBS Television started in Celle, near Hanover in the then West Germany, on 18 September 1975 from Trenchard Barracks.[28] This used taped broadcasts from the BBC and ITV, flown to Germany from London, which were then rebroadcast using low-power UHF transmitters.[29] Live broadcasts of news and sport began in 1982, using a microwave link between the UK and West Germany, extending as far east as West Berlin.[30]

The BFBS TV service used the 625-line PAL system, used in the UK as well as West Germany.[31] By 1982, it was available at 50 sites throughout northern and central regions of West Germany.[32]

It was known as SSVC Television (Services Sound and Vision Corporation) between 1985 and 1997, when it reverted to the BFBS name.[33] Today it now broadcasts live via satellite. DVDs are still sent to forces serving in more remote areas. There was also a service known as Navy TV, which broadcasts time-shifted versions of the channel to Royal Navy vessels around the world via military satellite.[34]


Most programmes came from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky, including news from BBC News, Sky News, ITN, and sport from BBC Sport and Sky Sports. BFBS also has its own programmes, including the daily news bulletin programme British Forces News[35] and the children's programme Room 785.[36]


BFBS Television was broadcast in some areas as a terrestrial service in the clear using low power transmitters to minimise "overspill" to non-service audiences and protect copyright.[37] The satellite feed was encrypted for copyright reasons, as it is intended solely for HM Forces and their families. [38]

Until 1997, it was also widely available in Cyprus, but its signal was encrypted or confined to the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia.[39] Following complaints from local broadcasters like Lumiere TV, which had bought local rights to show English football and other programming,[40] the decision was made to encrypt the signal, starting with Nicosia in April 1997 and ending with Larnaca and Limassol in May 1998.[41] The decision was criticised by MPs in an Early Day Motion.[42] BFBS later ended terrestrial transmissions of its TV channel in Cyprus in January 2009.[43]

However, as a result of card sharing by services personnel, BFBS TV (later BFBS 1) was available to unentitled viewers on the island, along with other channels until 2011, when an illegal pay-TV service was closed down in a joint operation by the Cyprus Police and the Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance.[44]

By contrast, BFBS TV was watched by civilians in the Falkland Islands, where for many years, it was the only terrestrial TV service. Initially it consisted of prerecorded programmes brought over on cassette from the UK, meaning that they were shown two weeks after the UK,[45] but was later shown on a timeshifted basis (which means that "live" events were shown between 3 and 5 hours after they had actually happened.) This expanded the civilian terrestrial TV service as part of a digital upgrade, which included BFBS 1 and BFBS 2.[46] BFBS 1 and 2 also became available to civilian audiences in Tristan da Cunha.[47]

British Forces and their families stationed at British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS), located at Canadian Forces Base Suffield in Canada, had access to BFBS 1, a limited amount of BFBS 2 and BFBS 3 and Sky News on a 7-hour timeshift from CET.[48] During the day, the television channel that BFBS 2/3 broadcast on, played BFBS Radio 1.

Content and channels

Until 27 March 2013, there were five BFBS Television services:

  • BFBS 1 (launched in September 1975; formerly BFBS Television and SSVC Television) – General programming from chat shows to soap operas, dramas to news, documentaries to sport. Relayed the BBC News Channel overnight and was later replaced by BBC One
  • BFBS 2 (launched in 2001) – A six-hour block of general entertainment and sports programmes shown four times around the clock. Replaced by a variation of BBC Two and merged with BFBS 3 Kids
  • BFBS 3 Kids (launched in 2008) – Children's programming and factual entertainment.
  • BFBS 4 (launched in May 2008) – Movie channel with two films a day, each shown six times around the clock.
  • BFBS 1 Day Later (launched in 2008) – Time-shifted channel which aired programmes from the previous day later at peak time in Afghanistan.

A combined version of the four main channels, called BFBS Navy TV, was available on some naval vessels.

In 2005, BFBS also began distributing commercial networks Kiss TV (previously Q), Sky News, Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 to certain areas. It also started a movie channel on 2 May 2008, using money that it saved following the Premier League's decision to waive the £250,000 rights fee.[49]

In 2010, BFBS also added Nepali TV (a TV channel in Nepali language based in the UK) in its channel line up for the benefit of Gurkha soldiers.[50] This was replaced by Nepal Television (the state TV broadcaster of Nepal) on 1 March 2016.[51]

Service changes

SSVC was awarded a new ten-year contract by the Ministry of Defence commencing on 1 April 2013. Fewer overseas troop deployments and reduced budgets resulted in a change to the previous TV service.[52]

Since 27 March 2013, BFBS TV has offered timeshifted versions of BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, as well as two channels of its own. BFBS Extra offers a variety of entertainment programming from W (formerly Watch), Dave, Sky One, National Geographic Channel, ITV2, 3 and 4, the History Channel, Sky Atlantic and previously Channel 4 and Channel 5. BFBS Sport carries sport from BT Sport (replacing ESPN), Sky Sports, and Eurosport.[53]

BBC Two carries children's programming from CBBC, until the late afternoon or early evening, while BFBS Extra carries programming from CBeebies until the evening. Additionally, the BBC One and ITV feeds are timeshifted to hit peak time in local time zones. Channel 4 and Channel 5 later became available as separate channels in 2019.[54]

Forces TV

On 10 June 2014, SSVC launched Forces TV, a new channel aimed at the British Armed Forces. It is available on BFBS, Sky channel 181 in the United Kingdom only, Virgin Media channel 274 in the United Kingdom, Freeview channel 96 and Freesat channel 165,[55] and on satellite Eutelsat 10A (10°E) alongside BFBS the Forces Station and on Astra2 satellite 28°E free-to-air. Its content is a mixture of news reports, entertainment, documentaries and features produced by BFBS. It is independent from the Ministry of Defence and is funded through advertising and sponsorship.[56] On 30 June 2022, Forces TV ceased operations for good, due to the loss of its Freeview capacity.


  • 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.
  • Peter McDonagh: Me and Thirteen Tanks: Tales of a Cold War Freelance Spy. London (2014) ISBN 978-1500307370.
  • Ivor Wynne Jones: BFBS Cyprus: 1948–1998. (1998) ISBN 978-0950335933.

See also


  1. "Mr Gale Pedrick". The Times. 24 February 1970. p. 10. Retrieved 29 August 2014. (subscription required)
  2. On the Short Waves, 1923-1945: Broadcast Listening in the Pioneer Days of Radio, Jerome S. Berg, McFarland, 1999, page 215
  3. Encyclopedia of Radio 3, Volume Set, Christopher H. Sterling, Routledge, 2004, page 379
  4. Coupe, Georgina (2 March 2020). "75 Reasons To Love Your New BFBS". Forces Network.
  5. "BFBS – Overview (free company information from Companies House)". Companies House, Government of the United Kingdom.
  6. "Search the register of charities".
  7. 'Our aim is to entertain and inform', BBC News, 20 July 2004
  8. "How to Listen". BFBS. Archived from the original on 26 October 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  9. British Forces Broadcasting Service: Good morning Afghanistan!, Angus Batey, The Guardian, 29 September 2011
  10. "How to Listen". BFBS Radio. Archived from the original on 1 March 2017. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  11. "DAB re-armed with BFBS radio". Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  12. "BFBS to end national DAB radio transmissions – RadioToday". Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  13. "Garrison Radio closes as BFBS goes local". Radio Today. 1 March 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  14. Hong Kong's farewell to the Archers ... from Pete and Dud The Independent 16 April 1997
  15. "Ten Hour Takeover Part 2, Fearne Cotton – BBC Radio 1". BBC. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  16. "10 Hour Takeover – British Forces special, Fearne Cotton – BBC Radio 1". BBC. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  17. "Afghanistan trip for Smooth's Simon Bates". Radio Today. 6 December 2011. Archived from the original on 16 February 2012. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  18. Goodwin, Lucy (6 December 2011). "Bates takes Smooth Breakfast to the British Forces in Afghanistan". Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  19. Mahoney, Elisabeth (13 December 2011). "Radio review: Simon Bates at Breakfast | Television & radio". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  20. "BFBS links up with Smooth for Easter". Radio Today. 4 April 2012. Archived from the original on 9 April 2012. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  21. Gurkha Radio staff from Nepal visit UK Archived 8 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, BFBS, 25 March 2014
  22. A microphone and a frequency: forty years of forces broadcasting, Doreen Taylor, Heinemann, 1983, page 174
  23. This Is the British Forces Network. The Story of Forces Broadcasting in Germany, Alan Grace, Alan Sutton, page 71
  24. World Radio TV Handbook, Volume 43, O. Lund Johansen, 1989, page 276
  25. Central America, Emily Hatchwell, Simon Calder, Vacation Work, 1991, page 142
  26. "British Forces radio, BFBS, end of an era—signing off permanently in Belize –". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  27. We're proud to say that we're back on air in Belize, serving the forces community. Tune in > BFBS Belize 94.3MHz FM, Twitter, 16 August 2016
  28. "The History of Forces' Broadcasting | BFBS Television". BFBS. 18 September 1975. Archived from the original on 1 November 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  29. Coronation Street for the Rhine Army, New Scientist, 4 September 1975
  30. "The British Forces Broadcasting Service – A success Story" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 June 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  31. Eighth Report from the Expenditure Committee Session 1977-78, Papers by command, Volume 34, HMSO, 1977, page 92
  32. In West Germany: Military Networks Spreading Pop, Billboard, Billboard – 27 March 1982
  33. Rundfunk und Fernsehen, Volume 45, Nomos, 1997, page 339
  34. BFBS buys system, Broadcast, 4 March 2004
  35. "British Forces News". Archived from the original on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2018.
  36. "Room 785 | Room 785 – BFBS Television". BFBS. Archived from the original on 1 November 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  37. "Zitty - Google Books". Retrieved 14 September 2022.
  38. Insight Guide Cyprus, Julia Roles, Ingram Publishing Services, 1999, page 288
  39. Cyprus telly addicts lose link to Britain, The Times, 2 April 1997
  40. BFBS pulls the plug on Larnaca viewers, Cyprus Mail 10 May 1998
  41. "Early day motion 775 – SSVC TV CYPRUS". UK Parliament. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  42. BFBS TV in Cyprus leaves the airwaves, Famagusta Gazette, 9 January 2009
  43. Joint police and industry action brings down card sharing pirate, Audiovisual Anti-Piracy Alliance, 21 June 2011
  44. A Little Piece of England, Andrew Gurr, John Blake, 2001, page 81
  45. "The Record of the meeting of the Legislative Assembly held on Friday 18 December 2009" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 May 2013.
  46. Grundy, Richard. "Tristan da Cunha Community News 2005 – 2011". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  47. "Canada | BFBS Television". BFBS. Archived from the original on 10 June 2013.
  48. Dowell, Ben (13 August 2007). "Forces' TV and radio set to cut 30 jobs". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  49. Arqiva adds Nepali TV to SSVC’s British Forces platforms, Arqiva, 10 December 2010
  50. Nepal TV to broadcast live on BFBS TV (press release), SSVC (via Facebook)
  51. UK Forces broadcasting contract begins, Ministry of Defence, 2 April 2013
  52. "BFBS TV SET FOR A MAKEOVER ON 27TH MARCH - BFBS Radio". 3 June 2013. Archived from the original on 3 June 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  53. "Access TV | BFBS".
  54. "Forces TV". Forces Net. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  55. Forces TV will be 'essential viewing' for British public, says PM David Cameron as channel launches, The Drum, 10 June 2014

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