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Bbc Broadcasts (Gulf)

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the showing of BBC News coverage to HM forces deployed in the Persian Gulf. [110590]

The British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) is produced by the Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC) under contract to the Ministry of Defence and provides radio and television services to most locations overseas where significant numbers of British forces are permanently stationed and, subject to practicality, to operational theatres.The television channels available to British land-based forces deployed in the Gulf have included two 24-hour BFBS channels, one of which includes: BBC 'Breakfast', BBC 6 o'clock News and, until 26 April, BBC News at 10 o'clock. SSVC also re-broadcasts BBC 'News 24' and 'Sky News' as additional 24-hour news channels. To receive these channels, SSVC has installed a large number of stand alone satellite television systems, initially in Kuwait and more recently in Southern Iraq.For the British forces onboard ships equipped with stabilised receiver dishes (eg HMS Ark Royal and HMS Ocean) the fall range of television channels has been available, however many ships do not have this capability and therefore for those with connectivity to the Skynet satellites a single television channel capability has been developed. The programme content is specified by the Royal Navy and has during the past two months included BBC News 24, Sky News and some news programmes from the BFBS channels. RN and RFA ships and submarines without access to the Skynet satellites have not been capable of receiving live television but have been provided with a taped SSVC television service that specifically excludes news programmes due to its non-live nature.SSVC is providing two radio channels for the Gulf area: BFBS Radio 1 includes Independent Radio News (IRN) on the hour, plus each weekday the re-broadcast of several BBC Radio 4 and 5 programmes including PM, '6 o'clock News' and 'The World Tonight'. BFBS Radio 2 also re-broadcasts, each weekday, the BBC Radio 4 'Today' programme in addition to the BBC News programmes included within the BFBS Radio 1 schedule.