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BBC drops its 'clipped' accent

October 31, 2003 23:34 IST

South Asian radio presenters with 'wog' or 'desi' accents are the flavour of the season in Britain, according to a British- Pakistani who has been sacked for sounding too posh.

The clipped oh-so-British accent of Zenab Ahmed grated in the ears of her BBC employers, who dismissed her at a moment's notice because she sounded far too white on the airwaves.

Ahmed, a single mother of English and Pakistani parentage, says her boss at the BBC World Service contacted her without prior warning and said, "Zenab, the sound of the World Service is changing and you are not going to be part of it. We won't be using you any more as an announcer."

When she asked why she was being sacked after three years of service, she was told, "Your voice is too clipped."

In the racist Britain of the 60s and 70s sounding 'posh' rather than sounding like a 'Paki' was the route to acceptance by the majority community.

Britain's ethnic minorities are underrepresented in the BBC, Ahmed points out.

When she started her newsreader's job, she adds, the BBC trained her to sound more authoritative and she was subsequently complimented on the clarity of her voice.

Ahmed has now signed on for unemployment benefit and hopes the severance pay she was given after a struggle will see her through until she finds another job.

What the BBC have not told Ahmed is that audience figures across South Asia are falling and there is an urgent need to do something to reverse the trend.

A spokesman for the BBC commented, "We have invested a lot of time and effort in developing Ms Ahmed's skills. We regularly review announcers' abilities and performance and we retain those who meet our standards. We're sorry it didn't work out, as we would have wished for all parties."

Shyam Bhatia in London