BBC Asian Network Closure is a “Devastating Blow” for Talent
When I first heard the news that the BBC Asian Network was due to be shut down by the higher ups, I was livid – despite the fact that I don't even listen to the channel. It seems to be almost representative of the listeners in general; even though the British Asian public have come together and formed various Facebook groups and online petitions, the number of listeners dwindle each year.
According to The Guardian, “…the station's audience has been in steep decline…with an average weekly reach of 360,000 in the last three months of 2009, down from 379,000 at the end of 2008, and 535,000 five years ago.”
So it seems kind of strange to me that even though we care so deeply about the end of the station, we still haven't supported our opening into the BBC enough to justify it. So what happened? Was it the case that we, the listeners, failed the station? Or did the station fail us?
It could be both.
But radio stations aren’t just important to those members of the public who listen to them. Both established artists depend on mainstream channels like the BBC Asian Network to air their latest tracks, and those who haven’t had the chance to get their foot in the door were given opportunities to follow in their footsteps through competitions like “Unsung”.
Kamraan Ahmed, of Moviebox felt that the closure of the BBC Asian Network would have a big impact on British Asian talent.
“To be honest this will be a devastating blow for all new and emerging British Asian acts, the Asian Network is the only fair platform for these acts to showcase their talents.”
Brian Engel, of Brian Engel Publishers, who collect royalties for various record labels such as VIP Records, Envy Music and 4Play Recording felt that claims of the radio station missing its target audience are not justifiable. “In my opinion, the Asian Network set a standard for playing both contemporary, commercial Asian Music, and also music by new emerging talent, a programming which appeals to the younger generation of Asian listeners. Of course, there will be those who argue that it didn’t appeal to ALL Asian listeners, but then Radio 6 doesn’t appeal to all English listeners either, but they managed to save that!”
Despite fears and worries, press officers from the BBC assured us that Asian audiences won’t be neglected by the BBC. “In light of the Trust's interim conclusions, we will proceed to detailed plans for the closure of the Asian Network which will need to be put to the BBC Trust for approval. As we said in March we believe we can continue to serve Asian audiences in other ways and we are looking to replace the Asian Network with a range of local services.”
When he spoke to Punjab2000, Engel believed that the BBC Asian Network have been fighting an up-hill struggle for a long time, since the station enjoyed having over half a million loyal listeners.
“Only a couple of years ago, in Asian Network’s heyday, the Performing Rights Society (PRS) was paying out a mere 51p per minute for music used on Asian Network…Compare that to Radio 3, which apparently only had a listenership of just 3 times that of Asian Network, but which earned around £17 a minute; the amount of money received per minute from the nation’s premier Asian station was derisory, some would argue, insulting!
“It took continual negotiation and many months and years of nagging and arguing by me and a few others in the Asian music business to finally persuade the PRS to agree to increase the rate to a fair and equitable sum.
“Now, the minute they have agreed to pay a fair rate for the music used on Asian Network, we find the BBC is going to close it down! I understand that the decision to close the station was the result of concerns, at a BBC management level, over quite a long period of time. I am reliably informed from the PRS’ senior executive that there was continual contact and monitoring and liaison between the PRS Board and the BBC in the deliberations over whether to close the station, which must have encompassed a the time when the Society was approving the improved per minute rates!
“The PRS maintains these close links with the BBC because “it is concerned that their Asian members’ repertoire continues to be both fairly and accurately distributed and reflected equitably in the services and policies that PRS for Music provides.”
“I wish fervently that they had been able to use the continuous liaison to intervene and help save the station.”
Punjab2000 will keep everyone updated on new developments, including how the BBC plan to try and fill the hole that the Asian Network will be sure to leave behind when it closes in 2011.
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