The BBC is investigating its own Asian Network over alleged claims of ‘anti-Muslim bias’, according to several reports today.
The Mail has reported that at least 20 past and present BBC employees, all Asian Muslims, have lodged complaints that its digital radio station, Asian Network, is operating with an anti-Muslim policy.
The claims made by certain individuals also slammed the station for scheduling more Bollywood and Bhangra music, which are more popular genres amongst the Hindu and Sikh communities, over Pakistani or Bengali music for its 500,000 listeners.
Another area of concern raised by past and former employees was of Muslim presenters and reporters being sidelined or sacked from the station in favour of Asians from other backgrounds mainly Hindus and Sikhs.
This case has now been taken up by Labour peer Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, who campaigns on discrimination issues. He was made aware of the issues several months ago and has since written to the BBC director-general Mark Thompson to investigate the claims.
Now the BBC has taken the unusual step of having the inquiry conducted by an external expert, Stephen Whittle, chairman of the Ofcom-linked Broadcast Training & Skills Regulator. He is believed to be taking evidence from tomorrow.
Lord Ahmed told the Daily Mail: “I have been making these representations to the BBC for the past ten years.”
“I am disappointed that not much has changed.”
“There seems to be a small mafia that is promoting their version of a culture which is contrary to the diversity within the Asian community.”
Back in November, Eastern Eye made sensational claims saying that Mark Strippel was a director of Panjabi Hit Squad while being Head of Music at the station. At the time, the BBC Asian Network refused all the allegations adding Strippel resigned as a company director of Panjabi Hit Squad in August 2004.
A month earlier, the British Asian newspaper highlighted the lack of Pakistani and British Pakistani artists on the radio station’s playlist. It assessed a list of the Asian Network’s last 22 playlists, to the week ending October 28 (2007) which showed
that only about five per cent of songs on them were by artists of Pakistani descent.
The newspaper also pushed the station into an On-Air apology for a sham competition on Raj and Pablo’s ‘Film Cafe’ show.
Hamant Verma, editor of Eastern Eye, said: “What on earth is going on at that station? It is a shame that the hard-work of its talented staff is overshadowed by yet another row about its management, be it the result of incompetent leadership or just plain racism.”