BBC Asian Network
|Broadcast area||United Kingdom and Internationally via BBC Sounds|
|Slogan||Celebrating British Asian life, culture and music.|
|Format||Music, News & Entertainment|
First air date
BBC Asian Network is a British radio station operated by the BBC. The station's target audience is people "with an interest in British Asian lifestyles". The station has production centres in London (Broadcasting House) and Birmingham (The Mailbox).
The station now broadcasts mainly in English, but has retained Sunday evening shows in South Asian languages. BBC Asian Network covers only the Indian subcontinent, South Asia, with the rest of the continent – such as East Asia – unincorporated by the station.
The station's output consists largely of music and talk programmes. On Fridays at 4:00 p.m., the station broadcasts The Official Asian Music Chart, compiled by the Official Charts Company and based on sales and streams across a seven-day period.
Origins as a regional programme/station
By 1949, the BBC had introduced their first weekly Bengali language programme, Anjuman, through the efforts of Nazir Ahmed and Nurul Momen. Momen also conducted a childrens' programme titled Kakoli. The BBC was later joined by more Bengalis such as Fateh Lohani and Fazle Lohani. BBC television had also 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. 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 the MW transmitters of BBC WM and BBC Radio Leicester with a combined output of 70 hours per week, and was extended to 86 hours a week in 1995 and on 4 November 1996 the station became a full-time service, on air 18 hours a day, and was relaunched as BBC Asian Network.
Station goes national
In November 1999, as part of the addition of a suite of BBC and commercial radio services to the Sky Digital satellite television platform, BBC Asian Network was made available to Sky viewers alongside BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC World Service, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Ulster.
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' .
2006 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. 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 until 2010
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 focused 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. 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.
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.
Threat of closure, performance and controversies
Threat of closure
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. The proposal of closure – along with BBC Radio 6 Music – was later confirmed on 2 March.
A letter was written to the BBC Trust and signed by various people – although the actual number of signatories was artificially boosted with many signing their name more than once (as both a single name and as part of different collectives).
On the official AN message boards, listeners advocated keeping their station at the expense of the more popular 6 Music, although the BBC Trust later rejected plans to close 6 Music and also rejected the plans to close AN.
On 14 March 2011, the BBC announced it was reconsidering its plan to close the station in favour of reducing its budget in half.
Sliding audiences and increasing costs
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.
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 peaking at 507,000. In 2012, audience numbers fell even further; peaking at only 453,000. Even with the budget reductions, in 2013 AN had the largest budget of the BBC's digital-only radio stations at £13m; despite having the lowest audience figures by far.
RAJAR's figures in 2014 showed that AN had at last briefly met the target set four years earlier, finally peaking at 619,000 listeners in Q4. However, AN was noted as being the BBC's only station – across both television and radio – whose Appreciation Index measurably fell in 2014.
By May 2015, AN had once again lost a substantial number of listeners, with the RAJAR reporting a peak of just 562,000 listeners – a loss of 57,000 from the previous quarter.
In 2016–17, AN continued to have the highest cost-per-user of all the BBC's radio stations at 3.4p per hour, the second highest budget of the BBC's digital-only radio stations at £7.5m and the lowest audience figures of all the BBC's stations.
In 2017/18, it was noted the station not only remained as having the highest cost-per-user of all the BBC radio output, but whose costs also increased – rising from 3.4p per hour the previous year to 3.7p per hour. The audience Appreciation Index figure did not increase, remaining at 80.3; and the average length of time spent on the channel dramatically fell from 06:11 to 05:19 – the biggest fall of all of the BBC's radio stations.
In 2018/19, AN's annual budget increased from £7m to £8m, but the station continued to perform poorly: population reach was down again to 1.1%, time spent on the channel per week fell again to 5:12 and an increase in cost per user per hour (up to 5p).
Rotherham sex abuse scandal controversy
In 2018, the station's Head of News Arif Ansari was arrested and charged under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 for a reporter naming a victim of the Rotherham sex abuse scandal during a live news bulletin.
- What is BBC Asian Network? BBC
- BBC - About Asian Network
- BBC Asian Network
- BBC Asian Network - The Official Asian Music Chart
- Asian Music Chart Top 40 | Official Charts Company
- Hayat, Anupam (2012). "Ahmed, Nazir". In Islam, Sirajul; Miah, Sajahan; Khanam, Mahfuza; Ahmed, Sabbir (eds.). Banglapedia: the National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Online ed.). Dhaka, Bangladesh: Banglapedia Trust, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. ISBN 984-32-0576-6. OCLC 52727562. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
- The New Schedule, April 2006
- Image Dissectors
- Changes to drama on BBC Asian Network BBC Press Release, 16 November 2009.
- Press Release, 8 August 2010
- "BBC signals an end to era of expansion" 2010-02-26 Retrieved 2010-02-260
- John Plunkett "BBC confirms plans to axe 6 Music and Asian Network", The Guardian 2 March 2010
- "BBC Asian Network is a vital platform", , The Guardian 6 March 2010
- BBC – Asian Network closure: BBC consultation
- BBC Trust rejects 6 Music closure plan  BBC News, 5 July 2010
- "BBC considers Asian Network U-turn". BBC News. 14 March 2011.
- RadioCentre's response to the BBC Trust's service licence review of Asian Network 
- "RAJAR: BBC Asian Network loses 130k listeners". Archived from the original on 5 February 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
- BBC full financial statements 2012–2013
- "BBC Annual Report and Accounts 2013/14" (PDF). BBC. 21 July 2014.
- "Radio 4 Extra breaks record to become UK's biggest digital-only station". BBC. 21 May 2015.
- "BBC Annual Report 2016–17" (PDF).
- "Asian Network Service Licence April 2016" (PDF).
- "BBC Annual Report 2017/18" (PDF). Retrieved 2 January 2019.
- "BBC Annual Report 2018/19" (PDF). Retrieved 26 November 2019.
- "BBC journalist Arif Ansari to go on trial accused of naming Rotherham grooming victim". The Independent. 11 October 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
- "BBC editor denies naming abuse victim". BBC News. 11 October 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2019.