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Asian Network Closure is

BBC investigates ‘anti-Muslim bias’

BBC investigates 'anti-Muslim bias' – on its own Asian network

By James Tapper
Last updated at 10:59 PM on 19th July 2008

Discord: Sikh and Hindu music from Bollywood dominates Asian Network playlists


The BBC has launched an investigation after complaints from staff of anti-Muslim discrimination by a ‘mafia of executives’ at the Corporation’s own Asian radio station.

At least 20 past and present BBC employees, all Asian Muslims, have lodged complaints that its digital radio station, Asian Network, is operating with an anti-Muslim policy.

They claim Muslim presenters and reporters are sidelined or sacked from the station, which began 12 years ago, in favour of Asians from other backgrounds – mainly Hindus and Sikhs.

They also complain that attempts to persuade the station’s upper ranks
to play Pakistani or Bengali music for its 500,000 listeners are ignored in favour of a strict diet of Bollywood and bhangra tunes, which are more popular among the Hindu and Sikh communities.

Their case has been taken up by Labour peer Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, who campaigns on discrimination issues.

He wrote to BBC director-general Mark Thompson last month.

He had originally raised the issue with former director-general John Birt, now Lord Birt, more than ten years ago.

Now the BBC has taken the unusual step of having the inquiry conducted by an external expert, Stephen Whittle, chairman of the Ofcom-linked Broadcast Training & Skills Regulator.

Mr Whittle, who was controller of editorial policy at the BBC from 2001 to 2006, is believed to be taking evidence from tomorrow.

Lord Ahmed said: ‘I have been making these representations to the BBC for
the past ten years.

'I am disappointed that not much has changed.

‘There seems to be a small mafia that is promoting their version of a culture which is contrary to the diversity within the Asian community.’

One former employee said: ‘There used to be a much higher representation of Muslims on staff.

‘Now there are seven daytime presenters and only one is Muslim.

'There are about eight reporters and half were Muslims – now only two are.’

The inquiry is also expected to focus on complaints that listeners who want to hear Muslim-influenced music are short-changed because of a bias towards music from Hindu and Sikh cultures such as bhangra, Bollywood films or black artists.

Another former employee said: ‘This is a deliberate policy but people are too scared to speak out because they are worried they will be victimised if they do.’

A BBC spokesman said: ‘We take these allegations very seriously and have launched an internal investigation into the matter.’