By Caitlin Pike
The BBC’s Asian Network has had an investment of £1m to develop it into a fully-fledged national radio station and provide a boost to its news and current affairs output.
The station’s news service has, for the first time, been incorporated into BBC News, which allows Asian Network journalists access to BBC newsgathering.
It will also mean that news stories produced by the Asian Network can be used by the wider BBC.
A half-hour daily news programme, Update, will start in May, airing at midday, and a documentary strand with input from independent production companies will run on Monday evenings.
In January, the station’s first head of news, Husain Husaini, was appointed with the remit to ensure original stories and investigative journalism are a key feature of the station’s output. He said: "The station is benefiting from one of the first investments to be made since the savings programme started at the BBC last year. Now we are part of BBC News, our output should be much stronger. We also now have our own dedicated political correspondent, Joanne Shin, based at Westminster."
Husaini was previously editor of Five Live’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. He led the team in New York that made Five Live’s Sony Gold-winning breakfast show after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Managing editor of the Asian Network, Vijay Sharma, said the investment was being made in time for 2010 when half of Birmingham, Bradford, Leicester and other major UK cities would be non-white.
The changes being made are a result of recommendations made by Tim Gardam, former director of television and programmes at Channel 4, who carried out a review for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport of the BBC’s digital radio services in 2004.
The BBC claims to have made funds available for these changes as a result of director general Mark Thompson’s "value for money" programme, which aims to save £355m by 2008.
The Asian Network began in the 1970s as specialist programmes for the Asian audience on BBC local radio in the Midlands. A regional service was started in the mid ’90s. In 2002 it was relaunched as a national digital service.