SAAC: “British Asian creatives are underrepresented in mainstream radio”

BizAsia Correspondent



A group of individuals have come together to shine the spotlight on the lack of representation of British South Asian’s in mainstream radio in the UK.

Change is needed now. The fact that there’s just a handful of British-born South Asian broadcasters on mainstream radio in this country is “shameful” says one seasoned broadcasting professional. This is why the South Asian Audio Creatives (SAAC) are campaigning for better representation of British South Asian talent in UK radio.

Research by SAAC shows 4 presenters of South Asian origin across the major commercial national stations. While at the BBC, popular music channels Radio 1 and 2 have no British Asian presenters on a full time basis while BBC 5 Live has a presenter of South Asian origin in its daytime line-up with another starting in the new year, BBC Radio 4 stands out on the national radio landscape as possibly the only station that has fully embraced British Asians and the contribution they have made to British culture and society.

While 2020 has showcased a wave of cultural awareness in the UK, says SAAC, a group of broadcasting professionals who have come together to support and demand change, there has been little acknowledgement of the fact that British South Asian creatives are practically non-existent in mainstream radio. Few have high profile jobs in broadcasting and generally tend to be relegated to more ‘Non Editorial’ positions.

It’s certainly not reflective of the Asian population in London and elsewhere in the country, where the latest population statistics show that in the capital alone the Asian community stands at just over 1.5 million with nearly 4.5 million Asian or Asian British in the UK as a whole, the West Midlands having the highest concentration outside of the capital (2011 census). The Government’s Office for National Statistics forecasts that in the first half of the new millennium there will be a potential growth of Asian ethnic groups of between 163 percent to 205 percent – in other words, double what it was at the end of the last century.

Says Am Golhar, Media Voice & Creative Entrepreneur for SAAC, “It’s Important to recognise that there is an issue, but more importantly to resolve this now and for our future generations. It’s humiliating to see the amount of talent out there with British South Asians being almost completely overlooked by radio bosses. We need integration, not segregation”.

With almost two decades in the business, BBC Asian Network radio presenter, journalist and DJ Bobby Friction comments, “I started on national radio 18 years ago and to see almost no progression across the industry in nearly two decades is quite frankly depressing. What does this say about us as an industry and as a society in general?”

Also lending his voice to the SAAC campaign is Asian broadcasting professional Mark Machado, Head of Production at 11-29 Media. Says Mark, “It’s shameful that so many large radio stations in the UK think it’s OK to employ us in IT, legal and finance departments but we aren’t trusted to express our stories and experiences on the mic. Hopefully, these shocking revelations will lead to rapid change.”

A final word comes from Sone Palda, Director of Westside Radio and Westside Talent, “It’s massively disappointing seeing these current figures. I was part of setting up the UK’s first Asian youth station back in 2000 – BBA Radio – where we developed many South Asian broadcasters that went on to present on some of the biggest stations in the UK. It’s a big shame that such little progress has been made in the 20 years following BBA Radio for South Asian presenters.

“Through my own work in radio, both as a station manager and as a talent agent, I believe that from this point onwards we can really help to create change by working more closely together with the leading broadcasters.”