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BBC Radio 2 in link with British Forces Broadcasting

LONDON - The BBC's Radio 2 has linked up with the armed forces radio service and will be broadcasting special programmes to British personnel as the build-up of troops in the Middle East continues.

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The link with the British Forces Broadcasting Service begins on Sunday March 2 kicked off by Steve Wright in the second hour of his 9am-11am 'Love Songs' show.

Wright will be passing on dedications and messages and playing requests from listeners in the UK for friends and family in the Gulf who will be tuned in to British Forces Broadcasting Service.

The link-up will continue with Richard Allinson, who will relay requests and dedications from the Gulf in his 10:30pm-midnight Monday-to-Thursday show.

BBC Radio 2 controller James Moir said: "BFBS approached us to see if we would do this and we were pleased to be able to help. Steve Wright has more than 3m listeners tuning in every Sunday morning, many of whom will know some of the 40,000-plus people currently stationed in the Gulf. Through these live link-ups we can help them to keep in touch through dedications, messages and requests."

The troops will be able to listen to Radio 2 via BFBS Radio. BFBS has set up a network of FM transmitters in the Middle East, which provide a dedicated BFBS Radio 24-hours seven-days service to British ground- and ship-based forces deployed in the Gulf region.

Charles Foster, controller of BFBS Radio, said: "BFBS Radio is so important at a time like this. Our troops rely heavily on us for up-to-the-minute news and round-the-clock programmes made especially for them, many of which carry messages from their friends and families back home."

As part of Operation Telic, the operational name for British Gulf deployment, hundreds of portable radios have been distributed to troops in the region to help keep them in touch with home.

The link-up with Radio 2 follows a long BBC tradition of broadcasting to the forces during times of conflict, dating back to the Second World War.

The BBC and British Forces Network Hamburg linked for the very first edition of Family Favourites and, at the height of its fame, had an audience of approximately 20m in the UK and 7m listeners in Germany. The last show was broadcast on January 13 1980 as part of Pete Murray's Sunday show on Radio 2.

During the 70s and 80s, BBC local radio stations also linked up with various BFBS stations around the world for their versions of Family Favourites.

BFBS went on air at the end of 1943 when an experimental Forces Radio station was opened in a harem in Algiers. Since then, its two networks have broadcast from 20 countries and 67 radio stations to a total of 200m listeners around the world.

The BFBS service comprises BFBS Radio 1, a pop and information channel targeted at younger soldiers, sailors and airmen. It offers a mix of the modern radio available in the UK, from Richard Allinson to a weekly relay from the Ministry of Sound, as well as programmes specially made in the UK.

BFBS Radio 2 provides a mix of talk/news radio via relays of BBC Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live, supplemented by BFBS programming, including classical and other specialist music.

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