Asian Network: Bangladesh at 40
Next week the BBC Asian Network (AN) will dedicate a week's programming to mark the 40th anniversary of Bangladesh's independence.
On Monday 12 December, the AN team will leave for Bangladesh for two special outside broadcasts from Dhaka. The team will also join various programmes across the BBC to report on the celebrations of a landmark occasion in the history of this young republic.
As an editor on this project, it's been a challenge to oversee the resources spent on sending the team to Dhaka. I was convinced that we needed as many BBC stakeholders on board as possible.
It took a few email exchanges with the BBC London's Managing Editor David Robey and a subsequent meeting with a couple of his colleagues to get the most listened-to BBC local radio station to join our editorial plan. I hoped it would be hard for David and his team to ignore the opportunity to tap into what could be a sizeable audience in the Tower Hamlets area of east London.
It's worth mentioning that while British Bangladeshis constitute less than 1% of the UK population, their impact on the population at large has been profound. According to one statistic, this ethnic group - half a million British Bangladeshis - is responsible for 70-80% of the UK's 12,000 so-called Indian curry houses. And its influence on the wider British population hasn't been confined to our palates.
You only have to trawl through your wardrobe and it may spring a few surprises; I should know! Only the other day I bought some designer baby clothes as a gift for a friend in Bangladesh only to be told that they were "made in Bangladesh". That's how prevalent goods made in Bangladesh have become on our High Streets.
With this episode fresh in my mind, I was optimistic of a positive reaction from Stephen Mawhinney, BBC Radio 5 live's Head of News. And positive he was. Soon I heard from the station's breakfast show editor Scott Solder and the Up All Night team, both of whom were keen to use the services of my team.
I'm excited that my small initiative has fostered an editorial partnership with 5 live. The phrase "value for money" may be a cliche to some, but our approach has allowed me to be a part of some big editorial initiatives with next to no costs. Clever collaborations - within and outside the BBC - are the way forward in these straitened times.
The plan is for Gagan Grewal, one of our flagship presenters, to join 5 live Breakfast and BBC London's breakfast programmes live from Dhaka. On the day of the celebrations (16 December), Gagan will also join the Asian Network's breakfast show briefly before co-hosting part of our mid-morning programme presented by Sonia Deol.
Our pan-BBC partnerships don't end there. Our news team has commissioned a series of special reports from Bangladesh to be played every day during the week. Topics include a the growing phenomenon of reverse migration and how impoverished Bangladeshi children are being trained to survive the fury of floods and cyclones with Olympics money. The story on reverse migration will first be aired on The One Show on 13 December.
We kickstart our Bangladesh at 40 week with a specially commissioned documentary presented by former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq, who is herself of Bangladeshi origin.
In true multimedia spirit, we aim to make most of the reports available on video across various BBC platforms. They include the Asian Network's website, BBC News Online, the video-on-demand site, South Asia online and the 2012 site among others.
We end our coverage with two outside broadcasts from Dhaka on 18 December. One promises to be groundbreaking as it will be the first time the Asian Network has simulcast any of its shows with a commercial radio partner. I originally mooted the idea of a simulcast with Betar Bangla, a relatively new Bengali community radio station in east London, with some long-term gains for both partners in mind.
Nearly half of the 3.5 million British Asians live in London. But as a digital station, the Asian Network has no analogue presence in the capital, an impediment to the aim of growing our reach across the capital.
Partnering with Betar Bangla will allow a big audience group in London to hear our output on an accessible platform - otherwise known as medium wave. In return, Betar Bangla will see a significant improvement in their output as we're committed to providing regular training to their presenters, helping them to become a more truly professional radio station.
Rifat Jawaid is editor of South Asian language programmes at the BBC Asian Network