Radio Today has learned that the future of Garrison Radio appears uncertain, after SSVC was awarded a new ten year contract.
The contract, awarded to the Services Sound and Vision Corporation by the Ministry of Defence, is to provide all forces broadcasting services. SSVC currently operates existing radio and TV services for forces overseas, including BFBS Radio and TV.
Garrison Radio, led by former Radio One DJ Mark Page, currently broadcasts a separate service to over 20 forces locations in the UK, from six studios at army bases. Eight jobs could be at risk because of the changes.
The new ten-year “Future Forces Broadcast Services” contract, worth up to £25million per year, is due to start in April 2013, providing “a service that delivers unclassified information, entertainment and education to the British Armed Forces community worldwide”. A High Court challenge of the MoD’s contract award process in July was unsuccessful.
Sir Bob Russell, LibDem MP for Colchester, which has its own Garrison service, has raised the issue in Parliament, calling for a statement about “preventing the British Forces Broadcasting Service from snuffing out local Garrison Radio services”. Defence Minister, Mark Francois, said he believed that “the Future Forces Broadcasting Service will be able to provide a perfectly adequate service.”
Garrison Radio launched in 2001, and now broadcasts on six community radio licences, along with long-term RSLs on AM. The Ministry of Defence told Radio Today: “The MOD, the Army and SSVC are committed to continuing local radio broadcasts to selected garrisons in the UK. The MOD project team is in contact with OFCOM to confirm the information they might require regarding the change in contracted broadcaster.”
Garrison Radio’s founder, Mark Page, said: “This illustrates how hard it can be for any small business to enter the closed world of defence contracting… the way the process was operated is like the West Coast mainline rail franchise.”
“Garrison Radio has proved an effective and popular broadcaster and has delivered value for money programming to serving soldiers and their families. However, we have not had the chance to make a case based on the quality or cost of our programmes because the capital costs of new equipment for a larger contract would instantly rule our company out. BFBS has equipment in place that was paid for by the taxpayer but was unavailable to us at the time of tendering”.
Page said he was now exploring the possibility of keeping the stations on-air without government funding.