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    Asian television in the UK

    by Sunny on 13th January, 2009 at 12:07 pm    

    I wrote a big-ish article for the media supplement of the Guardian, which was out yesterday and is available to read from here. My conclusion:

    In addition, the closure of the Asian Programmes Unit highlights a greater issue. “The problem within the industry isn’t necessarily about race - to me it’s more about class,” says Ahmed. “There are certain racial groups doing well, but to me they are often too similar in class and social culture to white, middle-class people to make a difference. I don’t think there are enough executives in the media who realise that the industry is not being as representative.”

    Last year, after the producer Richard Klein told an internal audience that the BBC was “ignoring, at its peril, a great swathe of white, working-class audience”, he went on to make BBC2’s White Season. But many saw the series as tokenistic: working-class whites were largely seen through the prism of social breakdown, racism and immigration, and commissioners then returned to their usual fare.

    British Asians could now become as underrepresented as other groups. Perhaps that’s some semblance of equality.

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    12 Comments below   |   Add your own

    1. MixTogether — on 13th January, 2009 at 2:02 pm  

      Another plank removed, as we witness the dis-establishment of Multiculturalism…

      I would imagine this decision has put a bit of a cold chill through the Asian Network too.

      Hopefully they can come up with some innovative and positive ideas to justify their slice of the license fee? Reaching out to mixed couples and families as an audience might not be such a terrible idea…

      If the left is going to jettison race politics wholesale, in favour of good old class war (which is what looks to be happening) then it’s arguably the Asian community who will be the biggest losers in that move. I wonder if being scornfully lumped in with white people just because they have done well will make more Asian parents see the common ground?

    2. Kismet Hardy — on 13th January, 2009 at 2:34 pm  

      “British Asians could now become as underrepresented as other groups.”

      What a weird thing to read.

      I liked the fact though that Dead Set had three major Asian characters in it, even if none of them were being representative of Asians (ie they were characters that any actor of any race could play)

      And when I see the countless Asian newsreader there are (which is all of them… and female), I like to think it’s because they’re good at the job and not because they’re filling in a brief to hire primarily Asian women (in the hope that regular stories about fucking over brown folk around the globe will be cushioned)

      And Dev, despite his profession, in Coronation Street and the Hollyoaks family don’t seem to be making a point of being Asian in an eastenders kind of way


    3. Leon — on 13th January, 2009 at 2:38 pm  

      Reaching out to mixed couples and families as an audience might not be such a terrible idea…

      I think we should see more of that anyway, given the demographics (mixed race people projected to become the biggest ethnic group in the next 20 or 30 years)…

    4. Jai — on 13th January, 2009 at 2:48 pm  

      In addition, the closure of the Asian Programmes Unit highlights a greater issue.

      Maybe the powers-that-be think that the recent proliferation of Asian satellite channels are doing the job instead. Which is good in the case of BritAsia, but not so good in the case of all those soaps (especially the Saas-Bahu kind) from India which have little relevance to modern 2nd-gen Asian life here in Ingerlaanda.

      And when I see the countless Asian newsreader there are (which is all of them… and female),

      Y’know, I’ve noticed that too (with the exception of Krishnan G-M on Channel 4). I wonder why that is — are the majority of Asian applicants for these jobs female, or are they just deemed to be less threatening (and/or more photogenic) than the guys ?

    5. Leon — on 13th January, 2009 at 2:53 pm  

      Heh I was going on about the plethora of Asian female newscasters a year ago and was told I was over emphasising.

      I really have no idea how that’s come about, I guess something happened about ten years ago which caused the trend we’re seeing now…?

    6. Sunny — on 13th January, 2009 at 3:10 pm  

      (ie they were characters that any actor of any race could play

      But my point is partly about Asian characters who can’t be played by white ppl.

    7. Kismet Hardy — on 13th January, 2009 at 3:49 pm  

      Fair point. In the acting fraternity, there is a sentiment that says if a black man can play King Lear, how come a white man can’t play Othello? I suppose the answer is if a character is specifically written as a racially specific character (and there aren’t many of those historically for non-whites), then it should be played by a character that looks like one. Having said that, Shylock isn’t always played by a Jew and the racist NF dude in shaun meadows’s this is england is mixed race

      Acting, ultimately, is make-belief and should be inclusive to anyone who can make you believe you’re for real

    8. platinum786 — on 13th January, 2009 at 4:13 pm  

      So no chance of another series of goodness gracious me?

    9. MixTogether — on 13th January, 2009 at 4:26 pm  

      I must point out that Priya Kaur Jones and Dani Sinha are both mixed race Asian ;)

    10. Sunny — on 13th January, 2009 at 4:44 pm  

      GGM was the best!

      But it wasn’t made by the Asian Programmes Unit.

      It must be stated that the BBC still have an internal quota for minority programming… meaning they do make programmes aimed at Asians… its just that those programmes aren’t necessarily aimed at Asians (Desi DNA) and they don’t publicise them, or air them at reasonable hours.

    11. AsifB — on 13th January, 2009 at 5:53 pm  

      Got to agree about GGM being the best. (early C4 Eastern Eye, Black on Black and Bandung were pretty worthwhile though)

      I think the fact that lots of people can still name all the Asian characters and newsreaders on the telly, suggests British Asians are not overreprsented yet.

      But then other minorities doubtless feel the same way. (Incidentally, Peter Jones the Dragon did excruciating impressions of the Scottish and London Greek accents of his Den colleages on Shooting Stars, but we have to forgive him because he was wearing a tie, but if I was Greek I;d have been cringing a bit more - this is more due to EasyJet and Theo Papitis rather than Stavros and Mr Jones)

      I think the lack of minorities generally across the media is most acutely felt when new events occur and this is one of the background reasons as to why the quality of ‘community spokespersons; who are adopted by the media is often suspect.

      Apart from GGM , in another context, a differnt mainstream programme that offers a more realistic picture of diversity was The Apprentice and its aftershow which demonstrates conclusively that People from all background can be dickheads and still get along/backstab each other )

    12. persephone — on 13th January, 2009 at 9:41 pm  

      Is there not a case that asians be integrated as part of mainstream media anyway. Is this not reflective of 2nd/3rd generation who are much more mainstream. It may further dissipate what we have discussed on PP before ie the 1st generation maintaining die hard asian culture from over 40 years ago.

      I liked a comedy series called grease monkeys (channel?) which starred Archie Punjabi & that tall asian actor as her bro. The main stereotypical thing about it was that they worked in the (garage) family business whereas Archie played a mechanic

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