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BBC Asian Network

BBC Asian Network
BBC Asian Network logo
Broadcast area United Kingdom - national
Frequency MW: Various (Restricted Coverage)
DAB: 12B
Freeview: 709
Freesat: 709
Sky (UK only): 0119
Virgin Media: 912
First air date 1976 BBC Radio Leicester show
1988 as The Asian Network
- BBC Radio Leicester & BBC WM
1996 as separate channel on AM
2002 Nationally on DAB [1]
Format Music, News & Entertainment
Audience share 0.3% (December 2012, [2])
Owner BBC

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  • BBC Asian Network is a British radio station whose output is targeted to serve people of South Asian descent (Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans), or with an interest in South Asian affairs. The music and news comes out of the main urban areas where there are significant communities with these backgrounds. The station has production centres in Birmingham, The Mailbox and London, Broadcasting House. Its 'parent' station is BBC Radio 2 at Western House and it is part of the BBC Audio and Music division.

    BBC Asian Network broadcasts mainly in English, but also have programmes in five south Asian languages – Hindi/Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati and the Mirpuri dialect of the Potwari language and despite the name, is targeted at those of South Asian descent, or with an interest in South Asian affairs; with the majority of Asia not catered for. The station's output consists largely of music and talk programmes, although there is a daily documentary series Asian Network Reports.[3] Over mid-2009, the Asian network provided coverage at melas across the UK as part of the 'Summer Of Melas'.[4]

    In March 2010 the station, which has the highest per-listener budget of all UK radio stations,[5][6] was threatened with closure, along with BBC 6 Music.[7] A year later, following consultation the BBC Trust announced it was reconsidering its plan to close the station in favour of reducing its budget.[8] It was eventually decided not to close the station and by October 2014 the station had finally exceeded the target of 600,000[9] listeners which BBC Trust had set in 2011.



    BBC television had broadcast an Asian news programme, Nai Zindagi Naya Jeevan, since 1968 from its studios in Birmingham; this series followed a traditional news and current affairs format.

    In 1977 BBC Radio Leicester, responding to the growth of the size of the South Asian population in Leicester, introduced a daily show aimed primarily at that community in the city. At one point the audience consisted of 67 per cent of the South Asian community in Leicester.[citation needed] In 1979, BBC WM, the BBC radio station for the Midlands, followed Leicester's lead and introduced a similar daily show.

    On 30 October 1988 The Asian Network was launched on BBC WM and BBC Radio Leicester with a combined output of 70 hours per week, and in 1996 the station was relaunched as BBC Asian Network.

    BBC Asian Network goes national

    On Monday 28 October 2002 it was relaunched for the DAB Digital Radio system, now broadcasting nationwide.

    In January 2006, the BBC announced that they were investing an extra £1m in the BBC Asian Network, and increasing the number of full-time staff by 30% in a bid to make British South Asian interests 'a mainstream part of the corporation's output' .

    Branding and schedule changes

    In April 2006 the first wave of schedule changes were introduced with further changes coming into effect on 14 May and 21 May with weekend changes occurring from 17 June.[10] In August 2007, the Asian Network received a new logo as part of a general re-brand of all national BBC stations. In 2009, this was re-branded again to add prominence to the Asian aspect of the logo.

    Drama output

    One of the most significant programmes in the Asian Network lineup was an ongoing Asian soap opera Silver Street which was first broadcast in 2004. Storylines focussed on the lives of a British South Asian community in an English town of unspecified name and location, with themes that generally related to issues that affect the daily lives of British South Asians and their neighbours.

    Following a cutting of episode lengths to five minutes per day and continued falling listenership, on 16 November 2009 the BBC announced they would be cancelling Silver Street.[11] The last episode was broadcast in March 2010.

    The cancellation grew out of many criticisms of the Asian Network in the BBC Trust's annual report. In July 2009 it was revealed that the Asian Network had lost over 20% of its listeners in a single year and, per listener, was the most costly and expensive BBC radio station to run.[12]

    Silver Street was replaced by monthly half hour dramas and in August 2010, BBC Asian Network announced it would be launching a new drama season from 1 September 2010.[13]

    Possible closure and falling audiences

    On 26 February 2010 The Times reported that Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC, proposed closing the station in a bid to scale back BBC operations and allow commercial rivals more room.[14] The proposal of closure – along with BBC 6 Music – was later confirmed on 2 March.[15] A letter was written to the BBC Trust and signed by various people – although the number of signatories also included a number signing their name at least more than once; as both a single name and as part of a collective,[16] with many AN listeners advocating keeping their station at the expense of the more popular 6 Music,[17] although the BBC Trust later rejected plans to close 6 Music and approved the plans to close AN.[18] On 14 March 2011, the BBC announced it was reconsidering its plan to close the station in favour of reducing its budget in half.[19]

    In 2011, the BBC ruled there would be a 46% reduction in AN's budget and a declared target of 600,000 listeners a week; with actual audience numbers only reaching 507,000.[20] In 2012, audience numbers fell even further; peaking at only 453,000.[21] Even with the budget reductions, in 2013 AN still had the largest budget of the BBC's digital-only radio stations at £13m; despite having the lowest audience figures by far.[22]

    RAJAR's figures in 2014 showed that AN had at last started to increase its ratings – Q2's average weekly audience was 552,000 listeners, peaking at 619,000 listeners in Q4,[23] finally exceeding the target set in 2011. However, the station was noted as being the BBC's only station – across both television and radio – whose Appreciation Index measurably fell in 2014.[24]By May 2015, AN had once again lost a substantial number of listeners, with the RAJAR reporting a peak of 562,000 listeners – a loss of 57,000 from the previous quarter.[25]

    Notable presenters

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    Former presenters


    1. ^ What is BBC Asian Network? BBC
    2. ^ Listening Figures - Quarterly Listening Rajar
    3. ^ BBC Asian Network
    4. ^ Events BBC Asian Network
    5. ^ RadioCentre's response to the BBC Trust's service licence review of Asian Network [1]
    6. ^ Stars line up to save Asian Network "Stars line up to save Asian Network"
    7. ^ John Plunkett "BBC confirms plans to axe 6 Music and Asian Network", The Guardian 2 March 2010
    8. ^ "BBC considers Asian Network U-turn". BBC News. 14 March 2011. 
    9. ^
    10. ^ The New Schedule, April 2006
    11. ^ Image Dissectors
    12. ^ Changes to drama on BBC Asian Network BBC Press Release, 16 November 2009.
    13. ^ Press Release, 8 August 2010
    14. ^ "BBC signals an end to era of expansion" 2010-02-26 Retrieved 2010-02-260
    15. ^ John Plunkett "BBC confirms plans to axe 6 Music and Asian Network", The Guardian 2 March 2010
    16. ^ "BBC Asian Network is a vital platform", [2], The Guardian 6 March 2010
    17. ^ BBC – Asian Network closure: BBC consultation
    18. ^ BBC Trust rejects 6 Music closure plan [3] BBC News, 5 July 2010
    19. ^ "BBC considers Asian Network U-turn". BBC News. 14 March 2011. 
    20. ^ RadioCentre's response to the BBC Trust's service licence review of Asian Network [4]
    21. ^ RAJAR: BBC Asian Network loses 130k listeners
    22. ^ BBC full financial statements 2012–2013
    23. ^
    24. ^ "BBC Annual Report and Accounts 2013/14" (PDF). BBC. 21 July 2014. 
    25. ^ "Radio 4 Extra breaks record to become UK’s biggest digital-only station". BBC. 21 May 2015. 

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