The Brit-Asian music community are very upset about the closure
On 2nd March 2010, the BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, announced that BBC Asian Network radio will be closed as a national service. This was part of the BBC Strategic Review put forward to the BBC Trust for consideration and consultation. The plans are to close the station as a national station by 2011.
An option provided as part of the plans is to significantly reduce BBC Asian Network to a network of five part-time local services and syndicating some of the programmes aired.
The announcement and plans have not been readily welcomed by the British Asian community as a whole and there is a lot of concern for BBC Asian Network no longer being a major media source in the UK for news, entertainment and music, enjoyed by people not only in the UK but abroad too.
BBC Asian Network started to broadcast under its name in 1996. A combination of programmes were produced and aired from BBC Leicester and BBC Radio in Birmingham at Pebble Mill. The station was led by Vijay Sharma. The programmes covered a horizon of areas in support of South Asian culture and its target audience of Asians living in the UK. Majority of them were language programmes with very minimal presenting in English.
At the time, BBC television also had dedicated slots for the same target audience with Saturday mornings on BBC2 featuring programmes like Network East, Cafe 21 and Flavours of India. Showing huge support from the BBC for ethnic minorities.
In 1998, the station got its own newsroom led by Mike Curtis. This was a major boost for the station to be able to produce and broadcast its own news stories relevant to its ethnic audience. By 2000, the station became a UK national station and available on DAB radio.
In 2006, along with major management changes the station had major investment of an extra £1m from the BBC to increase it size with the aim to make it a mainstream part of the corporations output. Subsequently, scheduling changes took place and the station included broadcast of more programmes in English during the day to attract a wider and younger audiences. Making it a station listened to by not just ethnic audiences.
One of the most important roles of BBC Asian Network has been supporting new and upcoming Asian music artists. Giving air play to tracks and songs from artists who would otherwise have gone unnoticed. For example, Jay Sean, Amar Dhanjan, Rishi Rich, Sukshinder Shinda, Mumzy Stranger are only a few of the names the station has given huge backing. The Brit-Asian music community are very upset about the closure. New artists strongly feel there will no longer being a platform to promote their talent at the scale possible with BBC Asian Network.
We spoke to some key presenters from BBC Asian Network and a host of Asian celebrities at the UK AMA’s regarding the closure of BBC Asian Network and loss of its national status. Watch the exclusive interviews below to see what they had to say about the news.
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If the proposal to ‘break-up’ the station into a regional based BBC Asian Network go ahead, many feel the quality of the programmes will suffer and the importance of South Asian news from around the world as well as local will be not have the same diversity it has currently.
DESIblitz.com strongly opposes the closure of BBC Asian Network at a national level and encourages everyone to support that station to keep it national.
The BBC claims that listener-ship figures are not matching the costs to run the station. On page 25 of the Strategic Review document to the BBC Trust, the paragraph specific to the plans for BBC Asian Network reads:
The BBC Asian Network aims to provide high-quality news and discussion, helping British Asians connect with their cultural and linguistic roots. However, the increasing plurality and diversity of British Asian audiences are stretching the coherence and relevance of this service; its audience reach is in decline and its cost per listener extremely high. The BBC therefore proposes that the Trust considers closing the Asian Network as a national service, exploring a number of options for redeploying its investment and meeting the needs of Asian audiences more effectively. One option is to replace it with a network of five part-time local services with some syndicated national Asian programmes. These would be available on local DAB and local Medium Wave, serving areas with the largest British Asian communities.
You can get a full copy of the BBC Strategic Review document by clicking here.
As BBC licence payers in the UK, you have a full rights to have your points of view heard by the BBC. Closure of BBC Asian Network means your licence fee will no longer be used to support a hallmark British Asian radio station offering the diversity of music, news and entertainment at a national level.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Currently, there is a consultation period until the 25th May 2010. You are encouraged to go to the following BBC Trust site and fill in the simple form having your say against the plans for the closure of BBC Asian Network:
Alternatively, you can email the BBC Trust at the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org to have your say against the plans.
Being a major part of the ethnic media in the UK, DESIblitz.com feels any cause promoting ‘Desi’ culture to the ethnic public deserves its place. By uniting together it is possible that public view could sway the proposals currently in front of the BBC Trust. Your support could save BBC Asian Network and stop it losing its national status.