In a further blow to the West Midlands declining media industry, the BBC has axed its long-running radio soap Silver Street – produced for the Asian Network from its Mailbox studios in Birmingham.
The programme has been on air daily since 2004, but has been gradually whittled down from its original ten minute slot to just five minutes.
Soon it will disappear altogether, to be replaced by a series of 10 half hour plays.
As a result, the Asian Network will broadcast just 5 hours of drama each year compared to the current 21 hours – and there’s no guarantee that these will be made in the West Midlands.
One local actor who asked not to be named said: “This is really bad news – not just for the actors, producers, writers and directors involved but also for this region.
“What’s nice about Silver Street is that it speaks with a Midlands voice. It’s not just an Asian voice, but the voice of Asian family living in this region, so you also get the Irish landlady, white neighbours, friends who are black and so on.
It’s like Sparkbrook or Moseley
“The BBC charter says that it will produce work in the regions and reflecting all the regions, but what does The Mailbox produce? It might stage Question Time or Coast – but we’re a long way from the sea.
“We don’t all want to go to London or Manchester. There should be a Midlands voice.”
The Mailbox is still home to Radio’s long running soap The Archer, and occasional ad hoc radio dramas, but as we’ve discussed before on this site, BBC Birmingham appears to be in long term decline, with Corporation bosses favouring the new Media City in Salford.
Along with Central TV’s decision to merge East and West Midlands, and the Birmingham Post’s demise as a daily, it's clear that whatever the pretensions of local politicians, our region is punching well below its weight in national media terms.
As for Silver Street, the Controller of the BBC Asian Network Andy Parfitt said it has, “played an important role establishing the Asian Network as a national station. The production team, writers and cast can be proud of what they've achieved.
“However, as with all long-running series, it's important to assess their value and impact for the investment made and we've decided that there is a better way to deliver drama to our audiences.
"We remain committed to producing distinctive drama that our audiences will enjoy and full-length monthly dramas will be produced for the Asian Network instead."
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