BBC World is taking a new course as far as its India strategy is concerned. The media giant is currently building its largest media facility in India outside the UK. The company is also looking at regional presence in a big way and has plans to expand into 10 vernacular languages.
Speaking about BBC’s evolution from a pure play traditional media platform to something that has a significant digital, mobile and social media clout, Jim Egan, CEO, BBC Global News Ltd., said, “During the last decade we have seen dramatic changes everywhere in the world in terms of internet and the role of mobile devices. I think people have not dropped platforms in favour of the other. What we did was to keep what is precious about platforms like TV and build on its digital capability. So it has been a more of a balanced portfolio kind of approach. In general more than 50% of our traffic is on mobile devices and in some markets more than three quarters. In the last five years, it has been the role of social media, which has had the biggest impact, and I think at this stage most publishers are still trying to figure out their relationship with social media. I think from a commercial point of view, we don’t have things figured out yet. We see a large amount of growth in advertising going towards digital platform players.”
While social media might have given a new spin to the definition of news, at the same time it has also raised doubts about news credibility. The mismatch between speed and credibility has been a constant point of contention and most media establishments have conveniently courted the former and neglect the latter. Sharing his views on this challenging situation, Egan added, “We will always prefer credibility over speed. Though both are important but in the end the reputation, reliability and trustworthiness is much more important to us. However, I don’t mean to imply that we don’t care about speed. We think about brand attribution a lot. It is important for us, especially when our content appears on platforms that are not ours. For example the biggest video online so far for us this year was Professor Robert Kelly’s video, which we quickly made available for online distribution and it went viral.”
BBC India is also betting big on regional content. From Telugu and Gujarati to Punjabi, it is targeting the audience with a new mix of content that will be largely tilted towards a distinctive global approach. Sharing details about this, Egan stated, “By this summer end India will have the biggest BBC news facility outside the UK, much bigger than our news facilities in Moscow or Washington or anywhere else. This will be home to not just English content but 10 other languages. We are seeing a big demand for English and regional languages such as Marathi, Telugu, Gujarati, Punjabi and so on. So it’s quite an exciting time for us here.”
Refusing to term the foray into Indian regional space as competition with the existing players and something motivated by commercial gains, Egan added, “We are not taking on the big regional players. What we will do in regional languages will be publicly funded. We are not making those moves purely on the grounds of commercial gain. These are expansions by BBC in order to contribute to media choices in those languages. Also, we want to do something distinctive and in general the editorial content in those languages will be a bit more towards the global agenda and international stories.”