BBC A.N Future: What the industry says…

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Since reports emerged on Friday that the BBC Asian Network is being axed, professionals have quickly jumped on board to express their views about the troubled station.

The Times newspaper claims Mark Thompson, the Director-General, will announce the closure of the digital radio stations Asian Network and 6 Music and introduce a cap on spending on broadcast rights for sports events of 8.5 per cent of the licence fee, or about �300 million.

While BBC bosses are keeping tightlipped about the leak report obtained by The Times, BroadcastNow has reported that Bectu received a statement claiming the BBC has confirmed the report details are “largely” correct.

The BBC Asian Network aired a special one-hour debate on Friday presented by Nihal on his weekday discussion show. In that, commercial rival and leading Asian radio station, Sunrise Radio’s chairman, Avtar Lit spoke about where he thinks the Beeb has gone wrong with the Asian Network and how it has affected UK commercial radio stations on a whole.

In a telephone conversation with Nihal, Avtar Lit said, “…the BBC Asian Network was an important platform when it first started; it would [had] been a gateway for more Asians to get into mainstream BBC, which would alter the culture of Britain even further…and sadly that hasn�۪t happened.”

Asked if the millions of pounds the BBC Asian Network received from the licence fee when commercial stations have been under immense pressure, Lit said, “That’s just bad management. The fact is, if you look at the entire commercial sector starting from Edinburgh, Glasgow, all the way down to the Midlands, Manchester, London, the BBC Asian Network spends more money than the entire turnover of all the commercial stations in the UK, including the community stations…and it hasn�۪t been supported by the listeners for one reason or another and I think it�۪s a huge mistake by the BBC because the BBC jumped on the gravy train when the radio for Asians was already developed by the commercial sector��_They could have done a lot more for Asians on television, which will be sadly lacking in the UK but they decided to go for the easy thing, which was radio and the commercial stations fought back in terms of listenership but they have driven people out of business. Club Asia was driven to bankruptcy by the BBC Asian Network, which we bought because we thought it was worth saving it. The point is, if you look at Sabras in Leicester or [Radio] XL in Birmingham and Asian Sound in Manchester…all of those guys are doing a decent job on little money, simply because the BBC came along, put a lot of free money into the thing [Asian Network] and were not playing on the level playfield.”

Listen to the full comments made by Avtar Lit and parts of the special show presented by Nihal on the BBC Asian Network on Friday 26th February. Press play below.

What the others said…

Javed Husain
Director, Media Reach
It’s tragic news that another Asian audience media on the radio front has come to an end. To me it’s surprising that with millions of pounds spent by the BBC, it has not been able to compete with commercial radio. It’s a sheer lack of understanding at management level on how to cater to Asian audiences. A multilingual station does not work. If the industry looks around, the example of spectrum radio exists, which cannot deliver a large enough audience. The BBC should have the foresight to create different stations for the diversity within the Asian market. A housewife audience listening to Indian film songs for example does not want her two hours of listening abruptly interrupted while the channel changes to two-hours of Brit Asian pop or vice versa.

A few years ago, the BBC Asian Network was on the right track, and you could feel the challenge to commercial radio. Unfortunately this focus got lost along the way, and while radio listenership went up, for BBC Asian Network it went down.

I find it inexcusable for the BBC to take nine years and still not get the product and the marketing right. Well hooray to Sunrise/Sabras/XL for understanding what people want and for being able to deliver on shoestring budgets.

With the advent of digtal, we expect as licence fee payers contributing millions of pounds to the BBC, to be fully catered for. This time the BBC needs to take advice from Asian commercial management who have experience of the ethnic commercial sector and who would be able to address the needs of ever changing ethnic audience.

In future the BBC needs to take greater responsibility in the creation of media that takes firsthand account of the needs and desires of the ethnic market. Allowing Asian management to be a part of the entire media infrastructure.

It’s sad to see good DJ’s and staff on the dole. This is a classic example of tokenism. Last in, first out. The revolving door. I hope the BBC learns from its mistakes and does not repeat them again.

We demand to have radio and television stations created for all Asian audiences.

Surjit Ghuman
Managing Director, Panjab Radio & Asian Fx
The BBC Asian Network has for long been under pressure for underperformance and over expenditure. The station shouldnt go totally but just review its strategy and moreover work on its management. The direction and focus of the station needs to be revised.

Raj Ghai
Director, Media Moguls
The BBC Asian Network has been a unique platform for Asians in the UK since 2002 and has continuously delivered quality output for Asian audiences up and down the country. It would be a real shame to see it go as I believe that it has a lot of potential. It�۪s good to have a professional station with great resources behind it.

Asjad Nazir
Showbiz Editor, Eastern Eye
Although tragic, it�s no surprise to see the Asian Network in its current unfortunate state. Last year I predicted the station would be in trouble if they didn�t take out the rubbish. Whilst they took out some rubbish much of it has still remained.

Instead of repairing the serious cracks, they have papered over them and in the process disconnected themselves from large portions of the Asian community. Whether it�s a lack of original news, lack of content for older listeners, consistent factual errors, serious
conflicts of interest or a confused and out of touch music policy, the station has failed to deal with very real problems and failed to root out the cancerous elements that have negated the work of the very good people within the station.

Instead they have thrown large amounts of public money at very pointless events and ventures like the forthcoming download chart – anyone with a few brain cells knows that a download chart is not feasible because of a lack of sales, releases, piracy and
interest, but they will go ahead with it, find out no one cares and then move onto another ill thought out venture.

Whilst the very honourable head Andy Parfitt is doing a very commendable job in trying to turn the station around and has made some very good decisions, I fear he is ultimately fighting a losing battle because there is a mafia mentality within the station that will always resist change and the need to raise their game. (In fact some of these bad elements have undermined Mr Parfitt at a time when he has been trying to save the station.)

So whilst it’s sad the station will close, the spending can�t be justified and there is a bad element that will carry on riding the gravy train and prevent good and talented people from making the station work for an Asian community who deserves much much better.

Jay Sean
Singer
I can’t believe that they’re trying to shutdown the BBC Asian Network. This is crazy we have no mainstream platforms as it is. Messed up. My first ever interview was on the BBC Asian network seven years ago, they’ve always repped me. Just know I got your back if you need me Asian Network. (Jay Sean Twitter)

Adding further support for the station, Jay Sean has begun following the “Save the Asian Network” group on Twitter.

An online petition has also been setup to save the Asian Network and 6 Music. The petition can be found here.

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