Tower Hamlets Council gives Betar Bangla radio station £10k after raising the rent for its studio

PUBLISHED: 18:56 02 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:52 03 August 2018

Tower Hamlets Council has given the station a £10,000 emergency grant. Pic: PA

Tower Hamlets Council has given the station a £10,000 emergency grant. Pic: PA

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Tower Hamlets Council has given the UK’s only Bangladeshi radio station a £10,000 emergency grant after increasing the rent on its studio.

Betar Bangla applied for the urgent funding when the rent on its headquarters in Sutton Street, Shadwell, was raised by £14,000 a year “without warning”.

The council, which owns the studios in Sutton Street, leases the building to another company, Pearl Blue, which passed the increase on to the station.

The council said the terms of the new contract were still under negotiation and no extra money has yet been paid by the station’s landlords.

However, it agreed to hand over £10,000 to keep the radio team in their offices for the next five months.

Mayor John Biggs said: “Betar Bangla is run almost entirely by volunteers and is a real labour of love for them.

“The landlords have implemented a rent increase with no notice and we have been asked to help.”

He added: “The council do own the building and a rent agreement was signed with the landlord about four years ago under my predecessor.

“A rent review has proposed an increase. If this increase is not being paid but has already been passed on to Betar Bangla, then I think we need to be talking to the landlords about this.”

The radio station has been producing news, music and current affairs programmes for 18 years and has been broadcasting 24-hours a day since 2011.

Mr Biggs added: “Our borough is of course at the heart of the British Bangladeshi community and I am a big supporter of Betar Bangla and the service it offers.”

The council noted that Betar Bangla had run into financial trouble earlier this year after an unforeseen increase in transmission costs, but had managed to crowdfund the money.

The station had originally asked for a £20,000 grant in June, but the council’s Grants Determination Cabinet agreed to award half that amount last night.

Bow East councillor Marc Francis said the cash injection would give the station time to find a cheaper base.

He said: “The radio station has been based elsewhere before and they could be elsewhere again.”

A council spokesman added: “Betar Bangla is the only Bangladeshi radio station in the UK and serves an important local audience that might otherwise be socially excluded. It delivers important programming ranging from debt advice (in partnership with Toynbee Hall) and covering other topics related to domestic violence, community safety and health.

“Pearl Blue has a relationship with Betar Bangla and have increased the rent payable to them . The councils negotiations with Pearl Blue continue, an increase in the rent payable under a new lease has been proposed as part of the heads of terms but not yet agreed.

“On this basis the council’s grants determination committee felt the grant was appropriate as a short term measure while discussions with Pearl Blue continue over the rents at the property going forward.”

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