BBC Forces Programme
Domestically, the BBC's medium-wave transmitters continued to broadcast only the Home Service until the start of 1940, when – the lack of choice and of lighter programming for people serving in the Armed Forces having been noted – some of the former regional frequencies (804 and 877 kHz) were given over to a new service known as the BBC Forces Programme.
The BBC Home Service had been put together in a hurry and many of the pre-war favourite programmes had been lost. The new network mainly concentrated on news, informational programmes and music – in the early days of the war the theatre organist Sandy MacPherson provided several hours a day of light organ music to fill gaps in the schedule.
It became clear that the members of the armed services during the Phoney War, especially those in France who had been expecting to fight, were now mainly sat in barracks with little to do. The BBC Forces Programme was launched to appeal directly to these men.
Although intended for soldiers, civilians in England could receive the Forces Programme. Among them it became more popular than the Home Service, and after the Battle of France the Forces Programme continued to broadcast in the United Kingdom. The Forces Programme's mixture of drama, comedy, popular music, features, quiz shows and variety was richer and more varied than the former National, although it continued to supply lengthy news bulletins and informational programmes and talk. Programming was developed for specific services – "Ack Ack Beer Beer" for the anti-aircraft and barrage balloon stations, "Garrison Theatre" for the Army, "Danger - Men at Work", "Sincerely Yours, Vera Lynn" and "Hi Gang" for the forces generally.
Initially the station was on the air from 11.00am until 11.00pm. However from Sunday 16 June 1940 the station would commence its broadcasting day from 6.30am and would continue until 11.00pm. These broadcasting hours remained in place until the new BBC General Forces Programme began on Sunday 27 February 1944, with the new General Forces Programme maintaining the same broadcasting hours.
Commonwealth troops had broadcasts designed for them on the Forces Programme. From 1942 American troops also received their own broadcasts on the service; popular American variety programming, such as Charlie McCarthy, The Bob Hope Show, and The Jack Benny Program, appeared on the BBC for the first time. The British benefited from wartime co-operation; they only had to pay $60 for The Bob Hope Show, which cost $12,000 to produce. A brief daily programme on American sports also began, as did rebroadcasts of the American military's Command Performance and Mail Call. The broadcasts led to concerns over "Americanisation" of the BBC, but a BBC executive stated that 90% of British soldiers would choose American music if they had a choice.
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 the shortwave frequencies of the BBC Overseas Service (which itself had been known until 1939 as the BBC Empire Service and was relaunched again in 1965 as the BBC World Service).
The pre-war National Programme, whilst using the same frequencies and transmitters as the post-war Light Programme, was not the general entertainment network its successor the Light Programme became. The Light Programme was more of a child of the Forces and General Forces Programme, with a style of presentation and programming that had not existed in the United Kingdom before the war.
- Morley, Patrick (2001). "This is the American Forces Network": The Anglo-American Battle of the Air Waves in World War II. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 3–4. ISBN 0275969010.
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