Shilpa Shetty leads campaign to save BBC Asian Network

Shilpa Shetty leads campaign to save BBC Asian Network

Shilpa Shetty

In a letter to the BBC Trust chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, Shetty, actor-writer Meera Syal and Olympic boxer Amir Khan have called for the radio station to be saved. Signatories include cricketer Vikram Solanki, film director Gurinder Chada, and Sir Mota Singh.

The letter published today in The Guardian, expresses the signatories' "profound shock" at the BBC's decision to shut the national station. It says that the eight-year-old digital broadcaster provides a "key platform" for the national Asian community "and offers creative British Asian talent an outlet which is demonstrably under-represented in the more mainstream BBC. This would all be tragically lost if these proposals are agreed."
The decision to shut both the Asian Network and 6 Music were part of a strategy review announced by the BBC's director general, Mark Thompson. It said the Asian station's output was expensive in terms of cost per listener and its output was said to be "inconsistent".

The station, which broadcasts mainly in English but also has programmes in Hindi/Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujurati and Mirpuri, has also lost around 20 per cent of its listeners over the last three years, totalling an average of 360,000 listeners a week at the end of last year.Several senior Indian journalists who worked for the BBC said the station's closure was inevitable given the multi- choice media environment, diversity of languages within the Asian community and stiff competition from commercial radio.

The BBC has proposed that the Network would be replaced by a network of five part-time local Asian services based in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leicester and West Yorkshire.

Today's letter to the BBC Trust, also signed by peers Lord (Kamlesh) Patel and Lord (Navnit) Dholakia, actors Laila Rouass and Sanjeev Bhaskar and BBC Sport presenter Manish Bhasin, describes the decision as a "retrogressive step".

"The BBC we have grown up with has always prided itself on celebrating diversity. In that respect, the Asian Network is a national platform for music artists, Asian culture in general, news, debate and documentaries.

"We urge the trust to reconsider and stop the closure of a valued station which is greatly needed by your licence fee- paying audience nationally, and not just in the five proposed smaller local areas.

"Reducing broadcasts to just a few hours a day would be a retrogressive step, leaving us with only commercial Asian stations. These stations will not and cannot deliver a comprehensive service as the BBC Asian Network does. This is a vital part of what you offer in the name of public service broadcasting. We, as loyal licence fee payers, trust you will not let us down."

Around 20,000 people have so far signed up to Save the Asian Network groups on Facebook.The BBC's proposals are subject to a 12-week consultation period by the BBC Trust. A BBC spokesman said: "We have set out our proposals for the shape and direction of the BBC in the Strategy Review. The consultation is now a matter for the BBC Trust."

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