BBC 'exploring' ways to keep Asian Network open

The BBC said last night that it was exploring ways to keep the Asian Network open – raising hope that it had reversed an earlier decision to close the service.

The decision comes after a series of U-turns by the BBC in recent months over service closures.

The corporation reversed a decision to close music station 6 Music last year after public outcry and last week the BBC announced that it was retaining its Hindi service while a possible sell-off was being considered.

A BBC Spokesman said last night:

“Following Strategy Review in February 2010, the BBC Trust asked the BBC to produce more detailed plans for the best ways to serve Asian audiences.

‘We are exploring whether the Asian Network should remain on the national DAB and the work around this is being done as part of the Delivering Quality First process.

‘No decisions have been made and any proposals will be subject to approval by the BBC Trust.”

Since plans were announced for its closure the Asian Network has been boosting its listener numbers. It reached 477,000 listeners in the final quarter of last year, up from 360,000 in the same period the previous year.

The Guardian went further last night and reported that the Asian Network had been saved and that the BBC had already reversed its decision to close the station.

The report said the Asian Network would stay open but the BBC would look to cut its budget in half:

‘BBC executives are understood to have concluded that a national digital radio station remains the best way to reach Asian listeners, rather than a collection of medium-wave services that was mooted as one possible replacement,’the Guardian reported.

The station is inevitably facing cuts if it is part of the BBC’s Delivering Quality First process, as director general Mark Thompson has been tasked with making an annual saving of £400m as a result of the government freezing the license fee until 2016 and the corporation taking the responsibility for funding the World Service.

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