For the BBC, there's certainly
something about India.
More and more senior executives
are flying in and out of
the country. They are doing
more and more events, increasing
the number of touch points
So it comes as no surprise that Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC's Global News Division was in the country. It can't be easy being Sambrook. To Impact, and to the readers of Impact, what concerns us is his strategy for India, and how the BBC will react to the changes in a bewildering dynamic market-place.
New channels being launched, new delivery options, new technology. Sambrook and his team have to figure out a strategy for India - and simultaneously, for the 270 million households in over 100 countries across the world.
We weren't too concerned about what the Beeb is doing around the rest of the world, except, fleetingly, in China. Sambrook spent some time talking to Impact's Anant Rangaswami about his assessment of the Indian market, about why the BBC will continue to be relevant and about the BBC's (not just BBC World's) plans for the country. He's like the brand he represents: accurate, trustworthy and impartial.
The first thing to ask is whether you've seen any Indian English-language news channels…
I have been watching a lot of the news channels. One of the reasons for my coming here is to try understanding exactly, or better, what's happening in Indian television. It's extremely rich, very vibrant at the moment, and clearly, it's very important for me to watch the competition and understand what's going on.
What do you think of them? If you could get a little bit more specific…
I've watched all of them; including Times Now, CNN, TV18 and so on. I think I need to understand more about the viewing and the market for those channels. There's something about them which is quite similar; a lot of them have to same format, tickers and financial information. It seems to me that they are in very much of the same business market, young professional market, the way they deliver information. And I wonder whether actually the market for news and information is broader than that. And I think one of the things BBC World tries to do, is rather than aim at this young financial professional sector, is to aim at viewers and audiences with a sort of broader international interest and international outlook. So we're aiming at a rather different market from the one the local channels are aiming at.
But what is that market? Jeremy's presentation - a few days ago - on Globizen: if you look at that hard, and look at Indian-English channels, they probably deliver more. They have international appeal, which is important - for example, one of them has a Reuters feed, another's got a CNN feed - they're getting a window on the world, and yet I'm getting I'm getting whatever is relevant for me to talk about in a pub in the evening…
I think you're getting a small window on the world; not a very big window on the world. I think the BBC can bring a number of things. First of all, the BBC has the biggest global news gathering network; we obviously have very strong ethical values which are very well established, and of course, we have a long tradition of broadcasting, in India in particular. I think we bring a great range of coverage there - which the Indian channels don't match.
I was in Davos two weeks ago, where there was a very strong delegation from India - it was one of the country partners for the World Economic Forum - it was a very impressive exercise in branding India to the multinational community. It seems to me that we are at a very important moment for India; India's about to expand, or perhaps even explode in economical and business terms. Part of the reason for the Globizen survey is to try and tap into the mindset of the young professional Indian. I think BBC World, with its outlook and global reach and expertise can be a bridge between Indian professionals who are seeking to make their marks, building their economy, in a global economy, and the rest of the world; between India and investors, between India and the market. BBC World is an international channel and, with the reputation and the values that it's got, can be a bridge in a way that the local channels can't.
Sure, but if you look at it, mine is a generation where the BBC was the last word in news and credibility. But now, you have a generation which has seen homegrown channels for ten years, and the BBC does not have the primacy in these minds. Complicate that with another truth: how relevant is English news in India? It's still such a small piece of the pie, compared to the rest of it, and within that, it's going to be segmented into the BBC viewer and the CNN viewer; and then you've got the Indian news channels who've got their reputations for credibility, and all of them have their journalistic backgrounds and individual reputations. Isn't it going to be tougher and tougher for BBC if one doesn't see more of India coverage; the truth is, there's not very much of India.
Firstly, I agree that we need to improve our coverage of India; that's one of the reasons why we've invested in a business correspondent in Mumbai - which is the commercial capital of the country - or why we've invested in some special programming and coverage about India. This week we're having 'Energy Week', with special coverage about energy issues in India featuring very prominently in that. We have 'Call Centre', a documentary series coming out; we're investing in Indian programming and newsgathering in a very big way, so I absolutely acknowledge that it's important.
But also, the BBC's role isn't to report India to India; we could never do that as well as a local channel can. Our role is to report the rest of the world to India, and India to the rest of the world; and that's something our global reach - some 270 million homes around the world and our global audience of over 60 million people every week - allows us to do, which a local channel can't.
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