The BBC Asian Network’s biggest problem has always been its management. That is evident now more than ever since they failed to make the case internally to keep the station.
But BBC Asian Network’s survival is important, and there are several reasons why. Here are some…
1) It would reduce competition
With the buyout of Club Asia radio by Sunrise Radio late last year, closing Asian Network would leave no other real alternative to Sunrise. This is especially the case in London, where 40% of British Asians reside.
All the main radio stations in London (niche offerings such as Panjab Radio aside) are owned by the Sunrise Group: Sunrise, Kismat and BuzzAsia (the re-branded Club Asia). This would also apply to other parts of the country that were only served by local Asian stations or a feed of Sunrise radio from London.
2) A source of talent for the BBC and rest of the media
Along with the now defunct Asian Programmes Unit, the BBC Asian Network has been a stepping stone for scores of presenters, producers, journalists and actors across the media industry.
It’s arguable that Asian talent would be picked up by other parts of the BBC anyway but so far the rest of the BBC and broadcasting industry has been terrible at spotting and developing new Asian talent. If Asian Network were to shut down there is every possibility that levels of diversity at the BBC would fall in coming years.
3) It would create ‘parallel lives’
The BBC Asian Network is, for many Asians across Britain, a gateway into mainstream British culture. The station has gone further than any other Asian radio station in combining mainstream pop culture and news with British Asian culture.
Without that, many Asians would retreat to alternatives that would make them less open to popular culture. That would also raise the prospect of ‘parallel lives’ – where different communities consume different media outlets without much overlap.
4) It would abandon Asian license fee payers
The BBC still does appallingly bad in representing minorities (apart from on soaps) in doing ‘Asian stories’ outside narratives of terrorism and crime. The Asian Network has frequently brought stories to the rest of the media that its mainstream news journalists would be unlikely in covering.
The BBC’s Charter itself states the corporation will aim to:
Represent the different nations, regions and communities to the rest of the UK.
Across the range of its network output, the BBC should portray and celebrate the range of cultures and communities across the UK at national, regional and local level.
That is consistent with the view that it should seek to represent British Asian culture to not only serve that demographic but tie it with popular culture.
5) Remove a vital platform for British Asian culture
The station has not done enough to differentiate itself from commercial competitors, but the same argument could be made of other BBC radio stations such as Radio 1 and Radio 2.
Axing Asian Network would kill off vital media space for a lot of British Asian content and culture (documentaries, fusion music) that does not get represented on commercial alternatives. It is within the BBC’s remit to represent and give a platform to minority interests that need a mainstream platform to develop and grow.
cross-posted from Asians in Media
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