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Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 18 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the effects of the recent decision by BSkyB to turn off BBC TV and radio on the provision of a TV and radio service for the British forces living and working in Italy. [119724]

The Ministry of Defence is aware of changes introduced recently by various broadcasters, including the BBC, to restrict reception within Europe in compliance with international rights and licence agreements. It is with these agreements in mind that the Ministry of Defence provides bespoke radio and television services overseas to British service personnel and their families (the "entitled audience") under the banner of the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) through a contract with the Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC) which is an independent limited company and registered charity. The availability of BFBS services to any specific location is, however, subject to practicality and affordability. The MOD is, in conjunction with SSVC and British command staffs based in Naples, currently reviewing the means by which it may be possible to extend the BFBS television service to entitled personnel in the Naples area and other locations in Italy. The deliberations are being undertaken independently of, and without reference to, any changes introduced by other broadcasters.