BBC considers Asian Network U-turn

Shay and Sunny Grewal Shay and Sunny Grewal present Asian Network's weekend breakfast show

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The BBC is reconsidering plans to close digital station the Asian Network saying "no decisions have been made".

This is despite the planned closure being approved in December by the corporation's governing body.

The latest twist follows the BBC Trust's decision in July to reject management plans to shut 6 Music, after a high-profile campaign by the station's supporters.

BBC director general Mark Thompson announced plans to cut both last March.

A BBC spokesperson said the corporation was "exploring whether the Asian Network should remain on the national DAB" - the digital radio network.

Analysis

Why can't the BBC make up its mind? That will be many people's reaction to news that it's contemplating a second U-turn over plans to close a digital radio network.

It's also reported to be considering cuts to its local radio output, and replacing BBC2 daytime shows with news, and ditching Wimbledon or Formula 1.

The BBC insists no decisions have been taken - so what's going on?

One factor is the BBC Trust, the governing body, which has to consult licence-payers before approving major changes. It turned down the plan to close 6 Music, partly because so many people complained.

In addition, the BBC is now consulting staff about how it can cut its costs, and some of the ideas are being leaked. Even when those decisions are taken, the public and the BBC's competitors will be asked for their views, before the BBC Trust decides whether or not to approve them.

It's a thorough process, but a slow one.

"No decisions have been made and any proposals will be subject to approval by the BBC Trust," the spokesperson added.

A campaign to save 6 Music last year prompted many new listeners to try the station, doubling its audience to more than a million a week.

The Asian Network's fate prompted far fewer protests and, unlike 6 Music, it was not reprieved by the BBC Trust.

The trust previously told executives it wanted to see "a proposition for meeting the needs" of the Asian Network audience "in different ways".

But in December, it said strategy review plans to close the station could go ahead.

Now the BBC is considering whether it should continue to be broadcast as a national digital station, but with a smaller budget, following the recent licence fee settlement.

Under the BBC's original plans, the Asian Network would have been replaced by local Asian services, on radio and online.

Despite the threat of closure, figures from industry body Rajar showed the Asian Network's weekly audience had grown to 477,000 during the last three months of 2010 - up 33% on the previous year.

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