Five reasons not to axe the BBC Asian Network


by Sunny
1st March, 2010 at 6:56 pm    

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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  1. London Muslim — on 1st March, 2010 at 7:23 pm  

    not convinced about the competition point.

    When BBC World’s Arabic Station was closed those made redundant went off and established Al Jazeera.

    However, not fussed one way or the other as I never listen to the Asian Network.

  2. Jaz — on 1st March, 2010 at 8:19 pm  

    A middle ground would be to cut their funding, but keep the station going. It’s crazy the budget they have.

    Anyone connected with the BBC knows how much waste goes on there. This station is a prime example. They’ve gone out their remit on so many occasions, with organising gigs and melas, which take up alot of their budget. That’s just one example.

  3. MaidMarian — on 1st March, 2010 at 8:51 pm  

    Sunny – I was very happy with the BBC’s announcement this week. We have a vast, vast oversupply of media. It is about time that the media (in all its forms) started to contract and bring a bit of reality to its output.

    I emphasise here that I am not only referring to the BBC here. All outlets need to prune and, hopefully dumb up.

    The list above is all true, but they are not strong arguments, and certainly none of them need a regressive license fee to fund them

  4. Rumbold — on 1st March, 2010 at 9:06 pm  

    I agree with Jaz. I don’t know what the Asian Netwrok’s budget is but I am sure it could be trimmed.

  5. Sunny — on 1st March, 2010 at 9:26 pm  

    It’s about 12 million – which I agree is too vast.

    MaidMarian – but that’s an argument to keep the Asian Network as it serves a minority interest that isn’t being served (well) by the commercial sector. It should instead get rid of BBC3 – which costs 115 million a year and produces nothing useful.

  6. Rumbold — on 1st March, 2010 at 9:35 pm  

    Oh yes- please get rid of BBC3. Even if you spend the money on ice creams for everyone.

  7. MaidMarian — on 1st March, 2010 at 9:47 pm  

    Sunny – Well, no arguments about BBC3, and I would probably throw in BBC2 as well.

    As to the AN, well, it may not be being served well by the commercial sector, but it is being served. The media (and I emphasise that this is not just the BBC) have been seemingly immune from market forces – time to contract.

    Now, I do relalise that dumbing down is a possible outcome. Look at the state of local newspapers now, the Watford Observer used to be outstanding, nowadays they should print it with perforations.

    But overall we have too much media and identity issues should not detract from the necessary contraction. Given the BBC’s budget there is no reason that it can not adequately serve minority interests in other, smaller ways.

  8. douglas clark — on 1st March, 2010 at 10:08 pm  

    Leave BBC2 alone you philistine. You can dump BBC1 if you must, but BBC2 is great. And hands off the iPlayer!

  9. MaidMarian — on 1st March, 2010 at 10:28 pm  

    douglas clark – OK, perhaps I was a bit hasty!

  10. douglas clark — on 1st March, 2010 at 10:36 pm  

    Heh!

  11. MaidMarian — on 1st March, 2010 at 10:41 pm  

    Still – I’d pay to see ITV1 closed down.

  12. douglas clark — on 1st March, 2010 at 11:03 pm  

    Me too!

  13. Jaz — on 1st March, 2010 at 11:27 pm  

    If PunjabRadio can survive on donations and a few hundred thousand pounds a year, then really you go to to ask why the BBC waste so much money on the AsianNetwork.

    Give it a small budget, and i can guarentee the results won’t be that different. It doesn’t take much to stick a cd in and press play, a few interviews, and in all honesty the presnters won’t be going anywhere.

  14. Sunny — on 1st March, 2010 at 11:47 pm  

    Come one now, the programming for Panjab Radio is completely different than AN. The BBC could never get away with those standards. Not saying PR is crap – it serves the market well – but that market is not highly… erm.. discerning shall we say.

    There’s a 6th point to make – that cutting AN will simply be a drop in the ocean.

  15. MaidMarian — on 1st March, 2010 at 11:48 pm  

    Sunny – It is indeed a drop in the ocean, but that isn’t a reason not to do it.

  16. cjcjc — on 2nd March, 2010 at 8:13 am  

    This was described by a commentator this morning as “inverse Sarkozy syndrome” – trying to look smaller while in fact being no smaller.

    It’s the equivalent of a council closing a library to try to show how hard up it is when everyone knows that there are bigger costs which could be cut if it had the will.

  17. fugstar — on 2nd March, 2010 at 11:26 am  

    I’m not sure who it serves as i feel its a funny category, rather bollyfied and west-indocentric.

    Hopefully all the skilled people would find greener productive pastures.

    Its sad when people in power undertake institutional destruction.

    perhaps the authorities will enable more community networked radio to create fluid platforms between porous communities who arent united by space so well.

  18. Dan — on 2nd March, 2010 at 11:49 am  

    I can’t say I’m sorry to see 6music go – every time I tuned in to it, it disappointed me.

    As for the Asian Network I’m still wondering over a question I had when it was founded – is it right to split media outlets by ethnicity, instead of trying to represent all our communities in the mainstream stations we have? I’m not convinced it is, at least for the state broadcaster.

  19. princeofthieves — on 2nd March, 2010 at 12:15 pm  

    i like asian network but its got its work cut out – sometimes im not totally sure who its for – cos its hard to appeal to middle aged asians, teenagers, 20 somethings etc etc. and i dont think it *always* gets the tone right. but it does a decent job. i like the topical discussions they have most of the time. and some of the music shows too. though im curious to know what shows everyone saying its so great listens to? just so i can tune in. my main prob with AN is that i think most of the songs they play are crap. but i like the speech content.

  20. MiriamBinder — on 2nd March, 2010 at 12:15 pm  

    Community Radio is best served from within the communities they serve in the form of local stations. It is the best way to ensure that not only the mainstream interests of a local community are served but also that they are reflected by the programming.

  21. princeofthieves — on 2nd March, 2010 at 12:32 pm  

    yeah well i like listening to my local asian station – nu sound – but when it comes to topical content, things that you think might be important to a community, im not sure how good a job they do in providing it. so your theory is a nice one, but is it really true?

  22. platinum786 — on 2nd March, 2010 at 12:39 pm  

    BBC3 can be closed down, if you move family guy to BBC1. Also as long as MOTD2 is shown on BBC1 you can close BBC2 down too. Top Gear would also need to be migrated.

    I would say ITV could also be closed down, but then we’d be without X factor which everyone but me watches and more importantly without Champions League football.

    We can close down Channel 5, everyone has access to porn on the internet, why do we need Channel 5 anymore?!

    Also get this, apparently there is a BBC4, why do we even need a 4th one when the two before it are surplus?!

    Whilst on the topic, whats the BBC radio station which only has classical music on it? Nobody makes new classical music surely, why can’t the oldies who listen to that just stick t Vynil or CD’s or Cassettes etc?

    I don’t even listen to Asian Network, i’m only defending it because it’s asian. Also because I do listen to it when in a car with a person with a rubbish music collection, that doesn’t happen to often, i tend to drive myself around.

  23. Ali — on 2nd March, 2010 at 1:27 pm  

    “4) It would abandon Asian license fee payers” ?

    I guess we should have a BBC Polish network,Somali network and Chinese networt too then.

    The Asian Network was only ever representative of a small section of the UK Asian community anyway – those who enjoyed Bhangra, Bollywood and Adil Ray.

    It gave very little coverage to Mirpuris, Gujaratis, Bengalis and South Indians. I guess that has always been it’s problem. You can’t please and cater for everyone so why pretend that you do.

    At £12m odd a year, good riddance I say.

  24. platinum786 — on 2nd March, 2010 at 1:50 pm  

    Will I directly benefit from the £12m saved from Asian Network, no… they’ll probably use it to bomb some Muslims…

  25. Sunder Katwala — on 2nd March, 2010 at 5:22 pm  

    On the broad point about Asian licence feepayers, does anyone have any numbers or know what evidence exists is about the audience/reach of BBC1, BBC2, Radio 4 and Radio 5 among British Asian households compared to the rest of the population?

    And how does the reach/use of the Asian Network compare to British Asian consumption of other BBC outlets, and non-BBC outlets?

  26. cjcjc — on 2nd March, 2010 at 5:41 pm  

    Should there be a Chinese network?

  27. Rumbold — on 2nd March, 2010 at 8:08 pm  

    The BBC should fund the Sikh Channel. Then they wouldn’t have to rely on ‘Don’t dealy claim today’ for all of their money.

  28. Jaz — on 2nd March, 2010 at 8:22 pm  

    What do they spend that 12 million on ?!!?!?!

    As we basically pay for it, is there a place i can go and see?

    Seem’s like such a waste.

  29. Sunny — on 2nd March, 2010 at 11:14 pm  

    does anyone have any numbers or know what evidence exists is about the audience/reach of BBC1, BBC2, Radio 4 and Radio 5 among British Asian households compared to the rest of the population?

    Sunder: no I don’t think I’ve ever seen those figures though I do try and parse these kinds of stats fairly often.

  30. douglas clark — on 2nd March, 2010 at 11:48 pm  

    Is there not a point to be made about ‘different strokes for different folks’?

    I find Radio 4 unbelievably dull and worthy. I can get BBC Alba – which is in Gaelic, yet another language I don’t understand.

    But as long as they have a place in supporting some facet of our culture it would be woe betide anyone to suggest they are shut down. I don’t see why the Asian Network is being picked out for special treatment. It fulfils a similar function, does it not?

  31. Jaz — on 3rd March, 2010 at 1:28 am  

    ^^ Douglas, i believe it’s because they spend 12 million, for 300,000 listners. Not great value for money.

    But as one poster pointed out … it does bring up the question about how they come up with these ‘listening figures’.

    In the past i know for tv they use BARBS, which targets a few thousand houses of different demographics, cultures, around the country. But there’s never been any statistics show the diversity in the people selected. Smaller channels and stations are usually more vulnerable to low ratings with this system in place.

  32. Jaz — on 3rd March, 2010 at 1:29 am  

    It’s also unlikely the BBC won’t completley abandon asian music, etc … you can probably see a huge chunk of it probably being incoporated into other stations.

  33. douglas clark — on 3rd March, 2010 at 1:38 am  

    Jaz,

    I’d agree that, what, £4.00 out of a license fee of, what, £142.50 is significant. How is the rest of it broken down?

    Just asking.

    I’d like to see the same cost-benefit analysis applied to BBC Alba.

    I have tried to find this out, but it beat me.

    Perhaps you can provide the facts…

  34. persephone — on 3rd March, 2010 at 9:42 am  

    RAJAR (owned by BBC) collect radio listening statistics. They do a quarterly survey which is free to view – see this link:
    http://www.rajar.co.uk/listening/quarterly_listening.php

    On first glance from this link it appears there are less popular stations than the stations being axed

    RAJAR do collect more detailed data ie breakdown by demographics which may go towards indicating asian listeners if honing in on densely asian populated regions. But you need to be a paid subscriber to get this level of detail.

    And RAJAR statistics give a ‘picture’ since they are conducted by relying on listeners keeping a manual diary and stations such as Sunrise Radio have fallen foul of RADAR results which they (sunrise ) say are not reflective of their true (higher) figures

  35. princeofthieves — on 3rd March, 2010 at 1:19 pm  

    asian music wont be incorporated into other stations. where will that happen? itll just be friction and nihal back on a graveyard slot on radio 1, and maybe one or 2 others but thats about it. asian network should really actually take this opp to improve their output and make the station less dispensible.

  36. Laban — on 3rd March, 2010 at 3:37 pm  

    I quite like the BBC Asian network – it’s a lot less PC than most of the Beeb’s programming, and I appreciate the India/Pakistan test coverage – in English.

    But there are alternatives, though more music and less chat. XL Radio in Brum is very good and you can pick it up on AM as far south as the Cotswolds.

    http://www.radioxl.net/

  37. Jaz — on 3rd March, 2010 at 10:56 pm  

    So what is the 12 million spent on?

  38. Ramiie — on 4th March, 2010 at 11:21 am  

    I have always felt that the BBC Asian Network represents a total waste of my licence fee. As A black man I cannoty understand WHY the BBC feels it needs to fund – from my money- a NATIONAL station dedicated to just one minority ethnic group. I totally understand the rationale behind 1Xtra, being a black MUSIC station ( and fittingly there are Asian DJs and producers on this, but interestingly no Black producerts/DJs on the Asian Network), and 1Xtra does not caters exclusively for Black listeners. Asian Network doesnt work or represent value for money. What it represents is that ridiculous white middle class cultural cringe towards the Asian lobby in that is already getting us into much trouble.

  39. princeofthieves — on 4th March, 2010 at 6:01 pm  

    theres black staff behind the scenes at the asian network. and er they play asian music which you dont have to be asian to like or enjoy. your rationale is ridiculous. i dont like classical all that much but i still pay for radio 3. part of the license fee is that you have to pay for stuff you might not listen to or watch alongside everything else. its not complicated logic.

  40. Jaz — on 5th March, 2010 at 3:35 am  

    Radio 3 offers alot more value for money in terms of ‘listeners to cost’ ratio.

    The BBC spunking 12 million on this is a disgrace. And they aren’t going to abandon it, jus relegate it to local radio on AM, for major asian cities like Birmingham and London.

  41. Mani — on 13th March, 2010 at 3:01 am  

    the asian network was a total waste of money – it only aimed for a very select group of asians within a select area.

    it was the young single “hip” londoners and that was it.

    for anyone outside that area it was like listening to a london station in london for london by london.

    to be honest they should at least offer it to a commercial arm to see if they’re willing to take up the mantel. clubasia was a much better channel than asian network ever was. the dj’s on the bbc payroll were incredibly irritating. sonia deol is the only one with credibilty intact.

    alot of the local stations around the UK do a much better job of serving the community – the channel neglected anyone aged 30 and over who wasnt into the bhangra/asian “nu music” scene.

    what really hit it the most was the digital only thing. if in a few years it was done then it’d have more chance. dab still isnt widely popular – sets are cheapest around £30 but for a long time it was the £70+ mark.

    i’m sure the top performers within the channel will be snapped up by others but it was a mediocre channel at best.

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