BBC World Service axes Westway
The BBC has announced that its World Service radio drama Westway is being pulled.
11:35 03 April 2005
The BBC has announced that its World Service radio drama Westway is being pulled in October after eight years on air.
The soap, set in a west London medical centre, is a popular twice-weekly drama watched by between 15 million and 20 million people, according to the actors' union Equity.
However, the beeb now claims that Westway "just doesn't fit in" with a revamped schedule. The corporation cites a much more conservative 1.7 million listeners; fewer than Radio 4 agricultural soap The Archers, which attracts 2.16 million.
Equity believes the decision to axe the show flies in the face of the commitment by the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, to greater diversity.
The World Service said it would still invest in drama and said that Westway's demise was "not a reflection of the programme's quality".
Westway won the Commission for Racial Equality's award for Race in the Media in 2001 and recent plot lines have included a Muslim girl bullied at school for wearing a headscarf, an immigrant doctor who discovers she is HIV positive and the problems between Africans and Caribbeans living in London.
Glen Barnham, Equity's national organiser for BBC television and radio, said: "We're shocked by the decision and we have written to Mark Thompson asking him to look at it again.
"He has been talking in terms of more popular drama and more diversity at the BBC. As far as diversity goes, Westway is far ahead of any other programme at the BBC, covering issues like asylum-seekers, Aids and same-sex relationships."
The new World Service English language schedule from 2006 will be given over to factual programmes, with arts and world drama at the weekend.