How the closure of the BBC Asian Network will affect British-Asian Women

The BBC’s decision to close 6 Music and the Asian Network has been widely reported in the media. In my first post as April’s guest blogger, I would like to explore how the decision to close Asian Network will affect women from a British-Asian background.

The Asian Network has provided a foot in the door for many Asian women wanting to work in the media, some of whom have gone on to work in other areas of the BBC. Sonia Deol, Anita Rani, and DJ Kayper have all had successful careers outside of the Asian Network. They also act as role models for the current generation of Asian girls, who usually only have doctors or bollywood actresses as parental approved role models.

In some Asian families, listening to English radio stations or watching English television is discouraged. Many Asian parents feel that some English media promotes values that are not compatible with their own, such as sex before marriage. Even though it is a part of the very English BBC, Asian Network is considered safe to listen to, as the music and presenters are Asian. Critics have claimed that the Asian Network has done little to help Asians integrate into British society. However, for many Asian women, especially those who have grown up in the sub-continent, the station is an opening into mainstream British culture. News items from other BBC outlets are regularly re-worked into a format suitable for Asian Network and BBC Radio 4 often borrows stories picked up on by the Asian Network.

The brilliant programme “Asian Network Reports” is not afraid to tackle controversial topics concerning women, such as the abortion of female foetuses, hymen reconstruction and the demand for Indian women to star in porn films. I can’t think of many media outlets, either in the UK or in India that would investigate these issues. These are subjects that I believe Asian women should inform themselves about and without the Asian Network this is virtually impossible.

As part of the BBC, the station is free from issues that affect other South Asian radio stations. Often run with a religious or linguistic bias and heavily influenced by leaders of the local communities, these other stations rarely hold open debates and mainly focus on listener requests. Far from providing independent competition to the Asian Network, many Asian radio stations, especially those in the London area, are owned by the Sunrise Radio Group. When the Asian Network closes, the community will be left without a credible alternative.

Asian Network is far from perfect and I never thought I would be campaigning to save an organisation whose management team consists of entirely of men, but it is the only radio station that comes close to meeting my needs as a British-Asian woman.