Connecting with New Asian Communities: BBC local radio 1967-1990

2020-04-03T16:02:53Z (GMT) by Liam McCarthy
This thesis challenges the existing literature which argues that the BBC displayed an ambivalence towards programming for ethnic communities in the 1970s and 1980s. This previously hidden history of Asian programming on BBC local radio reveals output of significance and weight. It highlights the fact that the BBC was not a monolithic organisation, rather a number of divisions competing for influence and budget, and as Asian programming brought neither it was pushed to the periphery. In this free space Asian programming on BBC local radio grew from ninety minutes a week in 1968 to ninety hours a week by 1990 as innovative and creative station managers expanded and adjusted their programming to meet the changing needs and challenges of the South Asian diaspora in England. Drawing on archive recordings located during this research has allowed a richer understanding of the sound and production of this programming. It is possible to hear the inter-generational friction as programmes both reflect the interests of a young British educated second generation and the importance of cultural reinforcement demanded by first generation immigrants. The crucial role of BBC Radio Leicester from the launch of its daily Asian programmes in 1976 through to the Midlands Asian Network in 1989 is reflected as a case study in this history. The programming in Leicester was demonstrably successful in audience terms and was part of the social glue that bound the new Asian communities to the city. There is a growing literature on how local radio can build social cohesion and BBC Radio Leicester is an early exemplar of this. The development of Asian programming on BBC local radio was driven by the independence of station managers who took radical policy decisions to get programming on air; a creative freedom that has policy implications for BBC local radio today.