BBC General Forces Programme
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The former transmitters of the National Programme continued to broadcast the Home Service until 1940, when the lack of choice and lighter programming for people serving in the Armed Forces was noted. At that point, some frequencies were given to a new entertainment network, the BBC Forces Programme.
The BBC Forces Programme was replaced when the influx of American soldiers, used to a different style of entertainment programming, had to be catered for in the run up to D-Day. The replacement service was named the BBC General Forces Programme and was also broadcast on shortwave on the frequencies of the BBC Empire Service (itself reborn after the war as the BBC General Overseas Service and now known as the BBC World Service).
The BBC Forces Programme was launched to appeal directly to those members of the armed services during the Phony War who were mainly sat in barracks with little to do.
Its mixture of drama, comedy, popular music, features, quiz shows and variety was richer and more varied than the former National Programme, although it continued to supply lengthy news bulletins and informational programmes and talk.
However, when the American servicemen arrived en masse in 1943 and 1944 in preparation for Operation Overlord, they found even the richer Forces Programme shows to be staid and slow compared with the existing output of the American networks.
In response to appeals from General Eisenhower, the BBC abolished the Forces Programme and established the General Forces Programme, designed to provide a mixture of programming suitable for American and British audiences and also to appeal to the "Home Front", who, research had shown, wished to listen to the same output as the forces once fighting had broken out.
As well as a large number of American network and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation programmes, the General Forces Programme also offered British programming:
- Shipmates Ashore – for the Merchant Navy
- Navy Mixture
- Forces' Favourites – a record request show
- War Office Calling the Army – information and news for service people
- Strike A Home Note – for Scottish service people overseas
- Welsh Half Hour
- SEAC – a newsletter for the South East Asian theatre
- Hello GIs – a newsletter for Americans in Britain
- Mediterranean Merry Go Round – made up of Stand Easy for the Army, Much Binding in the Marsh for the RAF and HMS Waterlogged for the Navy.
After VE-Day, the British longwave frequencies of the General Forces Programme became the BBC Light Programme on 29 July 1945. The service continued broadcasting by shortwave to areas that were still seeing fighting, and after VJ-Day to occupying forces in each former occupied and enemy country.
As Britain began to disengage from each fighting area and civilian rule was restored and the soldiers demobbed, the reason for the existence of the General Forces Programme faded. In each area it was slowly replaced by the BBC General Overseas Service until complete closure on 31 December 1946.
The Light Programme – as a general entertainment network featuring programming and a style of presentation that had not existed in the United Kingdom before the war – was far more a child of the General Forces Programme than of the pre-war BBC National Programme whose frequencies and transmitters it inherited.
- Various authors BBC Year Book 1947 London: British Broadcasting Corporation 1947
- Graham, Russ J A new lease of life Radiomusications from Transdiffusion, undated; accessed 5 February 2006
- Hancock, Dafydd Forces of Light Radiomusications from Transdiffusion, undated; accessed 5 February 2006
- Took, Barry Laughter in the Air London: Robson Books 1976 ISBN 0-903895-78-1
- Briggs, Asa History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom Oxford:Oxford University Press 1995 ISBN 0-19-212930-9