BBC Trust announces plans for Asian Network

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The BBC Trust has today published the conclusion of the review it was undertaking of the BBC Asian Network.

The consultation ended in December last year and the findings of those have been listed today to help formalise a much more focused station. The proposals set out by the BBC Trust will see the Asian Network save a net scope of �1.7m (18 per cent).

The other changes concluded are:
�ۢ A reduction in the station�۪s hours of transmission so that it will broadcast from 6am to midnight only, opting to Radio 5 live from midnight to 06:00.
�ۢ Simplification of the schedule through reducing the number of documentaries from 15 half-hour programmes to around five half-hour programmes per annum and decommissioning drama, sports coverage and daily devotional programmes.
�ۢ An increase in the overall proportion of music on the station, changing the balance of music to speech from 50:50 to 60:40. The breakdown will be as follow: At least 30% of its daytime music output in the year is from UK artists, at least 30% is new music (released within the last 2 months), at least 10% of music is South Asian, at least 10 live events or festivals are covered.
�ۢ The station will remove early morning devotional programmes, its occasional drama and will cut back documentary output. These genres are not core to the station�۪s appeal amongst listeners and some involve high production costs. It will also move its weekday specialist-language programming to the weekend, in line with plans for BBC.

With specialist shows including ‘Friction’, language shows and religious shows being affected, the BBC has confirmed to BizAsia that the next batch of programming changes are taking place in October this year. ���The schedule changes relating to the approved proposal changes are planned to come into effect in early October 2012, and will be announced in the coming weeks.�۝

The Trust also concluded that the BBC Asian Network plans to continue with its ‘friend of the family’ strategy while maintaining a focus on its primary target audience of under 35s.

Asian Network will also find efficiency savings from the closure of its Leicester base, consolidation of Asian Network News teams in the W1 News hub and the streamlining of management. The productivity savings amount to a further �1.4m cut to the service licence budget.

Over the next five years, Asian Network will need to ensure that the challenging programme of savings proposed under DQF is met whilst protecting the distinctiveness of the service.

BBC Asian Network spokesperson said, “We welcome the BBC Trust’s recommendations and its findings that audiences value the BBC Asian Network as a distinctive service. The implementation of DQF proposals along with the rest of the BBC means difficult decisions still have to be made internally in order to deliver affordable distinctive and high quality editorial but we are pleased that the station can look to a future with a defined role and clear strategy in public service broadcasting for Asian audiences.”

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