The BBC is to axe its Radio 3 Awards for World Music, one of the leading international showcases for the genre.

A BBC Radio 3 spokeswoman said in a statement today that the awards would not be staged this year as the broadcaster "felt it was time to develop a new direction [for the BBC's] world music coverage and to develop new plans beyond the awards."

The annual awards were established in 2002 to raise the profile of world music. Notable winners throughout the event's history have included American singer/guitarist Ry Cooder, Indian-British artist/composer Nitin Sawhney and Senegalese musician Baaba Maal.

The last awards ceremony to take place was staged at London's Dingwalls music venue in April 2008, followed by a winners' concert at the Royal Albert Hall later that year.

The news follows an earlier announcement by BBC director general Mark Thompson that the broadcasting corporation will be forced to undertake £400m ($580 million) of budget cuts over the next three years due to the impact of the global recession. Speaking in London on Friday (March 20), Thompson said the proposed budget cuts would likely mean pay freezes for executives, the axing of staff bonuses and further job losses.

The Radio 3 statement claimed the network's "commitment to broadcasting world music remains the same." According to Radio 3, the awards had been successful in promoting world music internationally and "many of those who were nominated and won awards over the past seven years, such as Nitin Sawhney, Baaba Maal and Taraf de Haidouks, have become major stars in their own right."

Radio 3 is the BBC's classical music channel but also carries a wide range of other specialist music and spoken word programming. It continues to broadcast a range of weekly world music programmes, including World on 3 and World Routes. The network also broadcasts the WOMAD world music festival and hosts its own stage at the annual event, held this year in Charlton Park, Wiltshire, July 24-26.