The BBC confirmed on Monday that it will go ahead to close down the Asian Network radio station, which is targeted at people with origins in the Indian sub-continent, by the end of 2011. The BBC Trust, which sets the course for the functioning of the world service, confirmed the proposal by the BBC director general Mark Thompson to shut down the radio station. It has published its initial conclusions on how the corporation can make the transition to a fully digital future.
Monday's announcement follows the publication by the BBC Executive in March of an initial set of proposals for the future of the BBC, which the Trust has since consulted on. BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons said it needed to meet its twin obligations to the public - to provide distinctive high quality public service content and to use their money wisely.
"The Trust would consider a formal proposal for the closure of the Asian Network, although this must include a proposition for meeting the needs of the station's audience in different ways," Lyons said. The Trust, however, rejected the proposal to close down 6 Music radio station following a public campaign to save it.
However, a separate campaign by leading British Asians and Indians such as Shilpa Shetty did not help prevent the close of the Asian Network. The Asian Network has a significant audience among people with origins in the Indian sub-continent, but its audience base is challenged by brighter and closer cultural content of private radio stations such as Sunrise and Sabras.
Senior Britain-based Indian journalists who worked for the BBC believe that given the multi-choice media environment, diversity of languages within the Asian community and stiff competition from commercial radio, the closure of the Asian Network was inevitable.
Online campaigns and petitions to save it were launched but senior Indian-origin journalists said they saw it coming because of many pressing factors, including a lack of clarity in its programming and target audience. Hisam Mukadam, a veteran journalist associated with the Network for over 20 years, told PTI: "It (the closure) was coming. The station had become a Bhangra-based Punjabi music station where the linguistic and information needs of the universal Asian community were severely overlooked".