BBC to cut broadcasting to the Gypsy and Traveller community
Rokker Radio, the two-hour radio programme established two years ago by BBC for the Gypsy and Traveller community is to be axed at the end of April. As the show prepares to celebrate two years of broadcasting across local BBC radio in the East of England and across the world on the internet, the BBC has decided not to fund the programme beyond the end of April.
The programme began on BBC Three Counties Radio on Romany Nation Day in 2006 and has since grown to broadcast on 6 local radio stations across the East of England. Each Sunday night, between 7 and 9pm it broadcasts to Britain’s 300,000 Gypsies and Travellers, many of whom must drive long distances to hear it because they cannot receive it in their area or listen to it on the internet.
Over the last two years, BBC Rokker Radio has attempted to address the lack of proper representation of Europe’s largest ethnic minority community in the media in Britain. It has raised issues of importance to the community whilst literally providing a common wavelength through which Gypsy and settled communities can begin to understand one another.”
Because of the unfortunate reduction in the BBC licence fee, regional management in the BBC have decided that it is too expensive to maintain. The £800 it costs each week to staff this vital service may well be in excess of the average cost of regional programming, but it remains the BBC’s only real commitment to date to the Gypsy and Traveller community. It is also insignificant compared to the financial commitment the BBC rightly gives to other linguistic, national and ethnic minorities across the UK.
With just one month before Gypsy and Traveller broadcasting is silenced in Britain, Gypsy and Traveller journalists, campaigners and Traveller education advocates have launched a campaign to save and expand the programme. In an open letter to BBC Director General Mark Thompson, members of the European Romani Journalists Federation have started to campaign for equal representation on and within the BBC.
“The BBC should begin the process of dedicating the same level of resources to the Gypsy and Traveller community as it does to other ethnic and linguistic minorities in Britain. If it is right that the BBC broadcasts in Welsh and Gaelic and provides an entire network to the Asian community, it is also right that it provide the same commitment to Europe’s largest ethnic minority community, the Romany people.” says veteran Kosovan Roma Journalist Orhan Galjus.
He added: “Services in the Romani language are also badly needed to support and inform those communities who currently have no access to independent broadcasting. Across many parts of Europe a de facto apartheid blights the Romany community and it’s prospects. We urgently need the BBC’s help to inform and educate our 12 million strong European nation.”
The decision to axe the programme comes as parts of the British press regularly demonise the community. On March 24th, a Sun front-page declared that a “Gipsy Hell” had been unleashed, when a group of Romany families set up a permanent caravan site next to a home owned by Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell. Campaigners claim that even the Sun would shrink from printing banner headlines containing the words “Black Hell” or “Asian Hell.”
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