Page last updated at 03:42 GMT, Saturday, 6 March 2010

UK Asians asks BBC to save 'valued' radio station

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The BBC has announced a series of cuts following a service review

A group of leading British Asians has called on the BBC to reverse its planned closure of digital radio station Asian Network.

The group includes comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar, boxer Amir Khan and Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty.

In a letter to the Guardian newspaper, signatories said that a key outlet for Asian talent would be "tragically lost" if the station was shut.

The BBC unveiled the proposal this week as part of a major service review.

This also included the proposed closure of fellow digital radio station 6 Music and a 25% reduction in website spending.

The threat to 6 Music has prompted protests from thousands of listeners, as well as musicians like David Bowie, Lily Allen and Coldplay.

BBC director general Mark Thompson said that half of BBC websites would close by 2013, along with teen services Switch and Blast, and that he expected an extra £600m ($893m) to be diverted into programme-making as a result of the changes.

As loyal licence-fee payers, we trust we will not be let down
Letter signatories

Those supportive of Asian Network said in the letter: "The BBC we have grown up with has always prided itself on celebrating diversity.

"In that respect the Asian Network is a national platform for musicians, Asian culture in general, news, debate and documentaries.

"It provides a key platform for the national Asian community, and offers an outlet to Asian talent, which is demonstrably underrepresented in the more mainstream BBC.

"We urge the BBC Trust to reconsider this proposal and stop the closure of a valued station which is greatly needed by your licence-fee-paying audience nationally.

"As loyal licence-fee payers, we trust we will not be let down."

Other signatories include writer Meera Syal, Khalid Mahmood MP, Lord Dholakia and Lord Kamlesh Patel.

BBC Asian Network has an annual budget of £12.1m and attracts about 360,000 listeners a week.

The BBC review said the station provided an "inconsistent listening experience," adding that the audience was declining and the costs were relatively high.

Following the announcements made earlier this week, the proposals have now been put out for public consultation by the BBC Trust over the next three months.

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