BBC Asian Network went on a 24-hour strike yesterday against the axing of one out of two editor posts in Birmingham and moving a third of the region’s output, including the hugely popular Bobby Friction Show, from Birmingham to London.
Helen Boaden, head of BBC’s radio division, told a Birmingham meeting that Asian Network workers should stop playing the victim. The BBC executive, who is paid £420,000 a year, told the NUJ rep: ‘If the strike’s not a jolly, then why don’t you call it off?’
Keith Murray, BBC NUJ rep, said: ‘Helen Boaden’s remarks were outrageous. It isn’t a jolly for the person whose job has been axed. It isn’t a jolly for the rest of them who are battling on understaffed in a situation of low morale. It isn’t very jolly for the people of Birmingham to have Bobby Friction’s show, the most listened to on the Asian Network, moved to London.
‘It is a huge loss to the Asian community in the Midlands and everyone else who enjoys his music.’
Messages of support came from all over the UK from NUJ branches, the TUC and FBU firefighters union.
Jaz, the award-winning artist known for music of the Folkhop genre said: ‘Since the cuts in 2011-2012, the Asian Network has significantly reduced its relationship with the British Asian music scene as compared to Bollywood. I believe this is a direct knock-on effect from the lack of staff available.’
Suki Padda, former Broadcast Journalist at BBC Asian Network, now working in music management, said: ‘The fact that Birmingham is the heart of the Asian community and was the hub for the Asian Network – the Midlands being the most accessible area for people to listen on MW and AM, it doesn’t make any sense to reduce shows from the region.
‘Closing the hub at Leicester has already had a negative impact. Bobby Friction’s show is the most listened to show on Asian Network – the people working on the show live in the heart of the community and are representative of the listeners of the station.’
Adam Christie, NUJ joint president, said: ‘I commend the NUJ members at the Asian Network for taking this stand. The Asian Network plays a major social role in this country and the BBC should be ashamed of cuts to yet another of the significant contributions the Corporation makes to the cultural health and diversity of this country.
‘Having lived in cities such as Leicester, Bradford and Leeds and when I worked alongside journalists contributing to the Network, I could see for myself the amazingly close rapport that they had with their audience – because they were part of that audience, that community. Personally, I despair that these cuts continue and I wish you all success with the action.’