It is the end of an era for one of the most popular radio stations in the Jewel. So, for the thousands who have kept their dial on 99.1 FM, there is nostalgia in the air. The British Forces Broadcasting Station will cease broadcast at the end of the week. BATSUB is downsizing and the number of British personnel is winding down, thus the decision to sign off after almost three decades on the airwaves. News Five’s Delahnie Bain has the story of the radio station that kept up with the times but has fallen victim to financial woes.
Delahnie Bain, Reporting
Since the early 1980’s, the British troops in Belize as well as locals have been tuning in to 99.1FM for music and entertainment. But in the next few days, the British Forces Broadcasting Station, will be turning off its transmitters and saying farewell to the Jewel. BATSUB Commander, Colonel Robert Lindsey, who also leaves Belize later this year, says it is part of the downsizing process.
Col. Robert Lindsey, Commander, BATSUB
“Sadly BATSUB is reducing in size and we have been for a while. At this stage now, we’re in the final main period of that reduction and as such a number of members of BATSUB are leaving in the next two weeks. And as part of that, we’re also having to close BFBS facility here. BFBS supports the British armed forces and as such they are deployed across the world where we have significant numbers of personnel, be it in Germany or be it on operations in Afghanistan or elsewhere. 00:02:48 BFBS has been in support of BATSUB and the troops on training here in Belize now, sadly it isn’t realistic to continue the service that they provide and I know that a number of local Belizeans listen to the radio show and sadly we will have to finish that later this week.”
Neil Carter, Station Manager, BFBS Belize
“It’s pretty hectic and there’s a lot going on as you can imagine behind the scenes with the final week. At the same time, it’s quite an emotional time because it is the end of an era. BFBS has been here for such a long period of time. I’ve been getting a lot of messages from previous presenters, previous station managers who have been through Belize over the years, just wanting to get a chance to say goodbye and thanks to Belize because the time they’ve spent here has stayed with them. It’s been absolutely fantastic.”
The Station Manager, Neil Carter, says that over the years, BFBS has advanced along with technology to continuously provide quality shows and good music to its listeners.
“We use to start off shows—even before I was in the media world doing radio shows—everything was reel to reel, which is a very old system of putting shows together. It was like large cassette tapes which you record shows on and you edit it by cutting bits of the tape out. We’ve moved on from there; that moved on to records were around at the same time. You couldn’t really edit with the records but as an editing medium of course we had the tapes. Then we moved on to CD’s, which was obviously the 90’s revolution. Then we moved on to—obviously there was the mini disc and visual cassette but obviously nowadays everything is mp3 based and computer based output.”
And as they countdown to the final show on Friday, Carter and Colonel Lindsey agree that saying goodbye will be just as hard for them as it will be for the fans they will leave behind.
Col. Robert Lindsey
“This has not been an easy decision; it’s not something that we would like to have done. It has been mainly because of the financial situation that we face. But I have been throughout very impressed with the support that we have had from Belize, from the government, from the people, from our local employed civilians—some of whom have had to be made redundant.”
“It’s been an honor, not only just to serve the people of BATSUB, the British forces who have been based here over the years; but also the wider community and to be a part of the Belize community, which has taken us on and have been a part of the station as much as anyone else and it’s been a privilege, it’s been a fantastic time. Belize is a great country and we’re gonna miss it.”
The station closes with a special five hour show on Friday morning, before 99.1FM goes silent at midday.
“On Friday we’re going to do a special extended breakfast show. So I’ll be doing the show between seven and midday. And it’s an opportunity really for those people who have grown up and been a part of BFBS Belize to call up, they can send messages in; get some songs played on the radio. If anyone’s got some interesting stories that would be great—from what they remember from the 80’s or 90’s or from the some years ago. We can share that with everybody else on Friday. Also we’re putting together a one hour special about BFBS Belize which will go out on the BFBS global network.”
But when that one hour special hits the airwaves, BFBS Belize will already be off air locally. The remaining troops will still be able to tune in via satellite receiver and others can tune in online at BFBS.com. Delahnie Bain for News Five.
The British troops are stationed in a number of countries around the globe where they have twenty-three radio stations on air.