Interview: Natasha Asghar – Writer, Presenter, Radio DJ

Natasha Asghar


Natasha Asghar
is a writer, radio Dj and presenter. Graduating with a Master’s degree in Politics, she got a taste of media by chance, and has not looked back since. She offers her pearls of wisdom on getting into the media industry.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background.

I’m an only child of an accountant/politician and a doctor. I was born in Newport, South Wales and studied there until I completed my A-levels. After school I moved to University in London. Whilst at University, most of my friends were working in the student union or doing temp work to make extra cash as a weekend job. I began hosting a show on a channel called Vectone. After nine months I began studying for my master’s degree, so I could not continue with researching, presenting and doing all of the running around for the show by myself and fulfilling the course requirements.

After completing my Masters in Contemporary British Politics and Media, I took up a job as a banker. But I missed the media buzz, so I started doing little bits here and there on the weekends.

I then left the job at the bank and decided to give media my all. It was at this point I started working for Buzz Asia, Asian Woman Magazine as their Agony Aunt and also B4U Music. I won’t lie, there was a lot of struggle and difficulty as there was not much stability, so I chopped and changed jobs from 2012-13; moved and travelled a lot for work, then out of the blue, I went for an audition at ZEE TV.

The rest is history.

You made a huge change moving from politics into media, do you have any plans going back to politics?

My father (Mohammad Asghar) is still in politics (as the Conservative Regional Assembly Member for South Wales East). I have and always will stand by him, in each and every way I possibly can. I do have a keen interest in politics and with the role I do choose to remain impartial to all political parties.

As for my political ambitions; right now I love my job and have not thought of doing anything along those lines.

But as for the future, who knows? Never say never right?

How difficult was it to present, produce and research your own radio show?

I had never worked in radio, until Buzz Asia and although I knew how to present, I had no idea about the technical side of it?

Admittedly I was very fortunate to have a wonderful station Manager ‘Raj King’ who was really supportive and my fellow presenters Zee Khan and Doni Brasco both very patiently trained me on the technical side of radio.

I quite enjoyed the freedom to talk about things and was able to help countless people through the show with issues they were going through. Although I was getting inundated with emails from listeners for help, it was hard to juggle that with other jobs, but time management is one of my strong points. Plus I really loved radio, so I made time to juggle my other responsibilities too.

There is not a doubt in my mind, radio is a fantastic medium, which I had never really considered before I became a part of it. However when I became more involved, I honestly never looked back and it will always have a very special place in my heart.

What do you like most about your job?, What do you like least?

I love the variety of each day; every single day is different. One day, we may have a top Bollywood celebrity, then a self made billionaire followed by a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) representative talking about a really important health issue. Plus I love everyone at Zee, they are such a friendly bunch of people, the least favourite part of my day is when we have to go home! (As sad as that may sound!)

What has been the happiest day of your life?

There are a few but I would say the most recently was when I hosted the ZEE Bollywood Rockstars concert, at Wembley Arena. It was in front of 6,000 people and my parents were sat in the 3rd row. Their facial expressions were priceless.

What do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?

World domination – You can interpret that however you like!

What one word would you use to describe yourself?

Blessed

What would you advise someone who is wondering whether or not to go into media? Say there own radio show?

I will never glamourise the media industry to anyone. I have had a mighty struggle over the years and some of my nearest and dearest can vouch for the times I used to get highly emotional out of sheer frustration. There is a dark side and a wonderful side and I’ve been incredibly privileged to have met some people along my journey who have supported me and stood by me, when I was totally new in the industry and we are still firm friends even now.

For anyone who wishes to get into media, here are some of my pearls of wisdom,

  1. Don’t expect to become Neeve, Bobby Friction, Nihal overnight. It takes time, practice, patience and effort.
  2. Be prepared to WORK from the ground up. I see so many people wanting to get into the media industry, thinking they are already born stars and should be given what they want. It is a SLOW process so be prepared to work for it.
  3. Don’t expect media to pay your bills straight away. It is very hard to find a full-time, well paid job in media and the competition is fierce. My father always taught me, when it comes to work – to have a plan A, B, C and D. It’s something I have never forgotten. When I worked in radio, I worked freelance at B4U, and at the online shopping channel, I hosted various events, then helped my father out with the accountancy whenever I could and also wrote for Asian Woman in my spare time. So if you want to get into radio or TV, make sure you have a few back up plans up your sleeve.
  4. Be prepared to make time for your work TV/radio you may get the role however you won’t be given a researcher to do all the leg work, so be prepared to run around A LOT.
  5. Don’t see any job as small. Some people turn down great opportunities and experience because it’s not a BIG NAME in the industry. Don’t make that mistake you never know, you may end up working for what is to become or will be one of the biggest companies in the media industry.

Natasha can be found on Twitter @natasghar and on Facebook.

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Crimestoppers Cycle Theft Campaign

Crimestoppers

Hey hey!

As I stated in my previous post, I’m currently volunteering with the charity Crimestoppers, which is the UK’s only independent crime fighting charity and this year they are marking 25 years of fighting crime.

Working on an ad-hoc basis, I write media appeals to raise awareness of crime in the Peterborough (Cambridgeshire) area. Alongside this, a group of us are working on the Cycle Theft Campaign, in which we are trying to prevent cycles from being stolen.

There are two aspects to the campaign:

1) The prevention of cycle theft – what you can do to prevent cycle,

2) Encouraging the reporting of cycle theft:  How to encourage people to report cycle theft.

The main message that needs to be put across is anonymity – that people can give information to Crimestoppers on cycle theft anonymously, and that there are two ways they can do this, one via the Crimestoppers website and two, ringing there 0800 number. People can also claim rewards, up to £1,000 if the information given leads to one or more people being arrested and charged.

So we had a meeting on July 5 and as the campaign is still in its planning stages, this will be a short update – don’t want you guys getting bored.

Overview:

Bicycle theft is seen as a common problem internationally. Generally it refers to the theft of the entire bike however, this can include component parts and accessories being stolen. Statistics in 2012, have shown that the cycle thefts in Peterborough peak between the months of July – Oct, where people are out and about. Research shows that offenders tend to target cycles in public settings; particularly schools, university campuses and transport hubs as they have a regular supply of unguarded bicycles.

My role:

My role in mainly dealing with the PR/media side of it such as writing press releases, news articles and features for the local newspaper and magazines. I can’t wait to get started!

Anyway I’ll update again on this as the campaign moves into its next phase, however at the moment it’s just getting in contact with the right people who can help get the message across.

So until next time, adiós!

Najmah

If you want more on the charity Crimestoppers, visit: https://crimestoppers-uk.org/

Follow them on Twitter: @CrimestoppersUK

The reality of the 10,000 words dissertation looms…

Hey hey!

As the title suggests this post is dedicated to the mammoth 10,000 word dissertation I have to do this semester; it’s based on victims from ‘troubled’ backgrounds who don’t seem to be have a voice in the media. So what led me to do my dissertation on this subject?

Well, it was the whole Jimmy Savile case that got me interested into finding out more. When I first heard about it in the news, it just riled me up. An individual who became so powerful that he/she could do anything and get away with it – like Savile who thought of himself as being ‘untouchable’ and he was able to prey on 450 victims. The victims being from ‘troubled’ backgrounds were not believed by the media or the police even though it was said to be an open secret.

However researching further into this subject I discovered several other cases such as the Rochdale abuse case and the Oxford child rape case, where the victims were runaways from care homes. So seeing all this, I believe there is an issue and decided to write about it.

The reading that will go into this dissertation will be humongous, including the surveys/questionnaires and the people I have to contact. So the next few months, I can say I won’t be having any sort of social life – just books and my laptop to keep me company. Reality has definitely set in for me!

Najmah

Knife Culture

Here is another old feature I had written while I was doing my diploma, it was apart of my coursework.

In Britain today, knife crime is responsible for six deaths every week – a loved one gone in a second, leaving pain, emptiness and anger in its place. Najmah Bibi finds out what are the root causes and what can be done to combat it?

Imagine a boy is walking home just as he’s done many times before. His name is Trevor. He’s listening to The Beach Boys on his mp3 player, when a hooded gang of five boys push him against the wall demanding all of his possessions. Trevor lashes out and punches one of them. In a fit of rage one of the boys pulls out a knife and stabs him. Trevor keeps fighting back, so to stop him the boy stabs him again and again. Trevor falls grimacing on to his knees, clutching his stomach; the last thing he sees whilst gasping for air are the boys running away and the blood on his hands. His vision blurs and all goes dark.

Trevor could be someone’s brother, son or nephew. More than 277 people died in 2007/2008 due to knife crime in England and Wales. How many more people will lose their lives in the years to come?

Youngsters nowadays think that they are carrying knives for protection but police say that if you keep a knife with you it’s more likely that you will use it. Damilola Taylor and Kodjo Yenga are just two victims who were at the wrong place at the wrong time; both cases were gang related.

A female paramedic who works on weekends in the ambulance service in Peterborough told how on February 21 – 22 two stabbing incidents occurred. In one, a man was stabbed in the buttocks.

She said: “Incidents centre mainly in Millfield and New England area. Tensions are running high where Eastern European and Asian gangs are resorting to violence and are carrying knives.” She also said: “There’s a definite knife culture in Peterborough.” She also said how the “staff are very concerned and need more police back-up” especially after a paramedic was stabbed as he tried to help someone whom he thought was injured.

Neil Franklin, who is a Senior Press Officer working at the Cambridgeshire Constabulary said: “A lot of work is also carried out to quell any tensions that arise between communities, so preventing any crimes from happening,”

As a precautionary measure the ambulance bosses have blacklisted 10 addresses in Peterborough where they feel the crew could be in possible danger.

Accident & Emergency (A&E) in Peterborough District Hospital has recorded 29 patients being admitted with knife or stab wounds in 2007 and 23 in 2008.

The latest figures have shown that knife crime has gone down, so have the media been scaremongering the public into believing that knife crime is on the increase?

Mr Franklin agreed, “I would say that media only reflects what is going on in society, however, it does have a natural tendency to concentrate on the more shocking or negative aspects of crime because that is more interesting to readers.”

There’s a certain glamorisation about gang culture that appeals to youngsters – you could say it’s a kind of fascination while playing violent video games, such as Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row which revolve around knives, gangs and the mafia.

There is speculation that suggests a link between video games and knife crime although there’s no concrete evidence proving this. However one incident occurred last year in Croydon, South London where a fan was queuing up to the buy a new game, when he was brutally stabbed by a complete stranger. But instead of checking into A & E, he returned home armed himself with a kitchen knife and set out on a revenge mission similar to those found in video games. He failed only when he fainted due to loss of blood.

Some people believe the root of the problem is children/teenagers playing games which are certificated 18+. These sorts of games have small impact on a young growing mind as what they play, they imagine it to be real and this is why parents need to take responsibility to keep tabs on what they children play.

Research has shown that Dopamine is released when a person enjoys playing one particular game. Dopamine is a sort of adrenaline which affects the brain processes that control movement, emotional response and the ability to experience pleasure and pain. This increases when one continuously plays a game over a long period of time which causes them to become addicted. However it is not proven whether this drug influences young people to commit more crime.

Richard Taylor, the father of murdered schoolboy Damilola Taylor, believes the attitude of some young people is appalling. He said: “It makes them feel that the law has no control over them, they just feel that they can go on the streets and do whatever they like.”

He believed that imposing new taxes on video games will deter fans from buying games.

Anti-social behaviour (ASB) is one major root cause for knife crime. This is when someone carries out aggressive, intimidating or destructive activity that damages another person’s life. In a way knife crime and anti-social behaviour go hand-in-hand, often those who commit knife crime have previously been involved in some form of anti-social behaviour.

Most young knife carriers are motivated by fear as they forget that in ‘tooling up’ they increase the chances of becoming victims themselves.  Anti-social behaviour occurs in school’s which is why getting to the root of the dilemma is crucial, whether it’s bullying, problems at home or just boredom.

To help with this issue the government has spent two million on the Tackling Knives Action Programme (TKAP)  where 10 police forces are coming together to reduce death and violence amongst teenagers. Retail stores have also signed a six-point commitment to help tackle this matter. Some stores such as ASDA and John Lewis are already setting an example as they have stopped selling knives altogether.

“Police patrols are carried out in areas with a history of offending and individuals are stopped and searched where officers’ suspicions are aroused,” assured Mr Franklin. “We also try to nip any tensions or issues off in the bud by working in the community before they escalate into anything more serious.”

In Denmark, no-one can buy knives without signing some papers and showing some sort of ID. These papers are sent to the police station so the police officers have a record.

Officer Ibrahim of the Danish Police Force said: “We have security cameras installed in the areas where knife crime occur the most and guards patrolling 24/7. The statistics have shown positive results.”

He also said: “At the moment there aren’t there aren’t any security cameras in town so guards are carrying mobile phones and the moment they sense trouble – police are there straight away.”

Having workshops might be just what teenager’s need. The Gun and Knife Crime workshops in London are designed to support youths and parents. This would help raise awareness about the consequences of their actions. The 2020 Dreams is a specialist project which has different programmes to help re-motivate and encourage young people to take control of their own lives.

Danny Gardiner (48) – a prisoner in Bristol who was jailed for 18 years for stabbing Alan White, said: “The only thing I can see working to stop people carrying a knife is a massive drive around what will happen if you take another human life. They need to be terrified by that – because it’s reality.”

The government has already begun to give out double prison sentences to anyone caught with a knife whether it was for protection or not.

Justice Minister David Hanson said: “Harsher penalties for knife carriers – criminals convicted of carrying knives will have to work five days a week to carry out their community punishment.”

Mr Franklin Senior Press Officer of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary said: “Our advice is never to carry a knife as it is an offence. You are not safer if you carry a knife. In fact you are more likely to be the victim of a serious assault if you do. We should advise people, if they possibly can, never to put themselves in a position where they may become a victim of violence.”