BBC World News recently completed twenty-five years of broadcasting news globally. Launched on 11 March 1991 as BBC World Service Television outside Europe, its name was changed to BBC World on 16 January 1995 and to BBC World News on 21 April 2008 and is currently available in more than 433 million homes worldwide.
Jim Egan, CEO, BBC Global News has been associated with the channel for almost a decade and in an interview with exchange4media he speaks about the key focus areas for BBC in India, News on private FM, Indian News channel that he takes seriously and more.
BBC World News recently completed 25 years globally and you are associated with the channel for almost a decade. How has the news network evolved over the years and how has your journey been so far?
The journey has been a tremendous growth story for us. I personally feel I am very fortunate to work with the most rewarding division of BBC, because as we discussed earlier, there was a fiercely contested debate within the UK about the BBC and whether it was a good thing or bad thing.
Internationally people think BBC does something important. It stands for journalistic principles and practices that are worth standing for. I am proud to work for BBC. From the business point of view, the thing that keeps me awake, other than anything else, is to increase the numbers and add up like everyone else in general.
What are your key focus areas for India this year?
We have got Indian content coming up this year. Probably the key word is relevance, because we are not trying to compete with Indian domestic news providers, but we do want to be relevant to the Indian audience. We want Indians to feel familiar about our content and we have a specific global and international mix to do that. Moreover, in India we need to be releasing interesting stories and trends and also connect with the audiences outside India.
How is BBC planning to tap the regional markets and can we see more offerings other than Hindi, Tamil and Bengali in the coming time?
This is not formally part of the agreement. BBC has received extra public funding and not commercial funding, some earmarked for India. There are active plans underway for new content in other languages which are spoken here, however, I am not sure what those languages are and when we are going to announce our plans.
Can you tell us about the amount you have earmarked for BBC India?
Right now BBC World Service receives about 245 million pounds and it’s going to increase by 80 million pounds this year, and a chunk is earmarked for India. I can’t give out the numbers because we haven’t decided about that part yet.
How is BBC India doing in terms of revenue?
At the moment TV revenues are bigger than the digital revenues, but at the same time digital revenues are growing at a faster rate.
What are the kinds of challenges that you face as an outsider?
Wherever we go, we will always be considered as outsiders and that is the reality which we have to accept. What matters to us is to be relevant in what we do. We do have a particular style and it works for our audience and advertisers and that’s not the style everyone else has.
If you could point out three things that would become the game changers for BBC in the coming time, what would they be?
The first would be monetizing mobile effectively. Second, doing content led marketing in a way that works for advertisers and audiences, and finally getting the major political events right.
How important is India as a market for BBC?
It is definitely among our top five markets. The importance lies in the scale of its market and size, the potential target audience that it offers and the huge advertising revenue available.
What is your take about news broadcast on radio? Is BBC planning to discuss it with the I&B ministry?
There is no active discussion between BBC and MIB. As far as news broadcast on radio is concerned, we would like to see an opportunity to get news on radio but there is no active discussion going on regarding it as of now.
You mentioned about ad revenues and content marketing is an important aspect of that, so how actively is BBC doing content marketing in India?
We have run some content marketing campaigns and we are active in that space. However, our effort is to make sure that we get it right and we are working towards it.
Which Indian news channels do you take seriously?
I am not an expert but I know NDTV 24x7 because of their presence in the UK.
Is BBC planning to launch its own station in India?
No, because it’s not cheap to start a station that’s number one. Secondly, BBC Hindi has a half hour show and we do have time to find out possibilities about a joint venture, and of course, there are FDI and other provisions to be taken into consideration before doing that.