BBC Asian Network clears itself of bias


An internal investigation into an alleged anti-Muslim bias within the
BBC Asian Network has made some recommendations to the radio station, according to this week’s Eastern Eye.

The inquiry was headed by a former controller of editorial policy
at BBC, Stephen Whittle. It concluded its work last week.

Whittle investigated claims from some past and present staff at the
station, that they were mistreated because of their Muslim faith, and a separate claim that music by artists of Pakistani-descent was ignored.

While Whittle�۪s report has exonerated all executives of any wrongdoing, it has also made suggestions ‘to help prevent such misunderstandings from arising’ again.

Lord Nazir Ahmed initiated the inquiry in July. The BBC director general Mark Thompson listed some recommendations in a letter to Lord Ahmed. Thompson wrote, “The Asian Network will make clear its policy on programming around religious festivals, and will ensure that communication channels between staff and senior managers are clear and
open. We will also seek to ensure that record-keeping regarding the music played is improved, so the implementation of the music policy can be widely understood. We hope this will all contribute to a greater sense of transparency and accountability.”

The Asian Network refused to give more details about the recommendations, stating that its report will remain strictly ‘internal’.

A BBC spokesman told Eastern Eye, “Asian Network�۪s Controller Andy Parfitt briefed staff last week that that the
Whittle report had entirely exonerated the Asian Network senior management from all the all-egations passed on by Lord Ahmed. Andy stated that he would consider the recommendations that Whittle makes inc-luding issues around improved communication across the station and come up with proposals to put to the BBC�۪s director of audio and music in the autumn.”

Lord Ahmed has expressed his disappointment at the investigation. He will write to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Andy Burnham, next week to insist on a fresh inquiry.

He said: “I have received Thompson’s reply along with some recommendations for the future. However, I am deeply disappointed in the way the inquiry was conducted. It was very much an internal inquiry and I have deep concerns over the way it was conducted. I will write to the director-general again and also to the secretary of state to call for an independent, impartial inquiry.”

According to the Asian Network�۪s service license, ‘the music played [on it] should include a broad range of South Asian-influenced
music, with a particular emphasis on new and live music and British
Asian artists’.

Eastern Eye highlighted the lack of Pakistani and British Pakistani artists on the radio station�۪s playlist last year. It assessed a list of the Asian Network�۪s last 22 playlists to the week ending 28th October (2007), which showed that only about five per cent of songs on them were by artists of Pakistani descent.

For the week beginning 21st July, 2008 (Mon) ��� during the heart of the
contoversy – the percentage of tracks by such artists of Pakistani
descent on the Asian Network�۪s playlist – which is published online by the corporation – was less than two per cent.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi (con) is the shadow minister for community cohesion. Baroness Warsi supported a petition calling for more Pakistani music on he station, stating that “many people enjoy a diverse range of both british and Asian music, from musicians of Indian and Pakistani origin, and it would be great to see the BBC playing a diverse range of music to reflect that broad taste”.

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