A lifelong radio fan who was told that he “probably wouldn’t make it” to the airwaves by one of his teachers in school has defeated their odds by becoming a well-loved presenter at two community stations in West Yorkshire.
Banaris Iqbal, 43, who is severely sighted (blind) proved them wrong early on and has been working in the radio industry for over two decades.
According to the NHS, there are more than two million people in the UK living with vision loss and of these, around 340,000 people are blind or partially sighted.
A report commissioned by Ofcom – the UK’s TV and radio watchdog – found that only 10% of radio presenters are registered as disabled, below the industry’s benchmark, with the number predicted to decrease in years to come.
Mr Iqbal, who lives in Keighley, began his community radio career at BCB Radio when a three-month training opportunity came along as a teenager.
The disc jockey jumped at the chance at learning how to spin tracks at the station and loved it so much that he is still volunteering there to this day, presenting the drivetime Asian Beats radio programme every Friday evening.
Mr Iqbal said: “I began my radio career in 1998. I had wanted to do radio when I was in school, but the school wasn’t sure about my career choice because there weren’t many community radio stations around at the time.
“Being told I wouldn’t be able to go into radio in school devasted me. Back then, there wasn’t social media or many radio stations or TV programmes for the Asian community, so we listened to an hour’s news programme in Urdu on Pennine Radio that connected people from the South Asian community to their home country.
“Being told I wouldn’t be able to go into radio in school devasted me. Back then, there wasn’t social media or many radio stations or TV programmes for the Asian community.”
“I loved it so much that I would pretend to present when the show was on and inspired me to want to work in the industry.”
However, it wasn’t until he joined Fever FM – the largest community Asian radio station in Leeds – ten years ago that he unlocked his “full broadcasting potential”, the 43-year-old said.
The owner of the station, Jabbar Karim, adapted the radio station’s systems so that they would be accessible to Mr Iqbal. He was also given opportunities to present music programmes, religious and educational shows, competitions, and more across three languages, English, Urdu and Punjabi.
Giving advice to people with disabilities, Mr Iqbal said: “My message to anyone else out there with a disability is that if I can do it, so can you. Even though it is a voluntary commitment, it is better than sitting at home being stressed or worried about things.
“You may need some assistance, I need help getting from the train, but working at the radio motivates me and gives me confidence.
He added: “Being on the radio has given me a lot of confidence to do other things, like meeting others, getting myself known, and going out and about with the help and support of friends and family, things that I wouldn’t have otherwise dreamt of doing.”
“I am so grateful to BCB Radio who gave me my start and Fever FM and Jabbar Karim who has provided me with a wide variety of opportunities, from drive time shows, competitions, and British shows with different mosque leaders.”
Founder and managing director of Fever FM, said: “Mr Iqbal does a variety of shows in different languages which is a talent in itself, really. He has become part of the furniture at Fever FM and we rely on him for his wonderful shows.
“The listeners have really taken to him, whether he is presenting a show in English, Urdu or Punjabi. We acknowledged his disabilities and made changes around the studio to accommodate him.
“He is a fantastic talent, when nobody else believed in him, he believed in himself. For us, he is a diamond in the rough.”