Global TV audience is growing but we can't be careless about digital: Jamie Angus, BBC

As Director, Angus leads the BBC’s global news services - BBC World Service, BBC World News and BBC.com - as well as BBC Monitoring

Early this year, BBC appointed Jamie Angus as Director of the BBC World Service Group. As Director, Angus leads the BBC’s global news services - BBC World Service, BBC World News and BBC.com - as well as BBC Monitoring. Angus joined BBC in 1999 and completed more than 20 years with the news organisation.

Angus believes that every media market is different, and so is India. “I love watching Indian news TV and all the languages, it is so vibrant and exciting,” says Angus, but he thinks that there are some gaps in the market which need to be addressed. The media house recently launched BBC News Marathi, BBC’s first news bulletin for a mobile audience in India as part of a 24/7 video stream on the Reliance Jio TV app, titled BBC Vishwa. Angus, in conversation with exchange4media, talks about the need gaps that should be addressed in India, and BBC's growth in the market.

Excerpts:

Need gaps in the India market

There are several things, but particularly gaps are around reporting about  women and gender issues. Also, we think there is the big skew towards male audience in the Indian market and we want to address that. We also want to address questions around caste and other community discrimination that domestic media sometimes feels uncomfortable to address because of political pressure. Another big issue is of Pakistan, we think that BBC can report independently and robustly both from Pakistan for Indian audience and what happens in India to the audience in Pakistan, since the BBC is trusted by both the parties to report independently.

Audience shift from TV to digital

TV platforms are going to stay for some years to come. You need to look at how vibrant India’s news TV climate is. I think why people still want TV is because news such as sports, live sports, drama, and national history is so compelling to consume on big TV screens. So, I think the long-term continuing success story of TV as a medium is assured and am not worried about that. Our global TV audience is growing not shrinking. So, I am confident that we have many years of life on TV services.

But like every other media organisation, we know that we can’t be careless about preparing for the digital future and particularly while catering to a very young audience, who we know have never really engaged with linear TV. All they have is digital be it their handset, OTT or Netflix model. With that audience segment, we have big challenges to build relevance to BBC. We don’t have an emotional connection with the new age viewers. We need to have that bond with the younger audience to build them into the stable audience for the BBC in the future.

BBC News Service growth in India

I think we are broadly stable. Historically we have a very large shortwave radio audience. But over time that audience starts to disappear very quickly because we don’t do shortwave anymore. The FM radio market is close to vicinity because of government regulations. So we always have to move very rapidly from the shortwave audience into TV audience. Broadly, we are holding steady growth because as quickly as we grow, the TV and digital audience is probably losing shortwave. We are holding the steady growth of 30 million mark and that's a good place to be, but I would like us to grow more, particularly in English I think there is more headroom to grow and to reach more people on the digital platform in English.

On digital revenue

I would say digital revenue is the half of the money we make and I expect that proportion to increase. We have a robust TV distribution business which we take some revenue against to raise and distribute the news channels. So I would say the overall value of TV advertising is falling in proportion to digital advertising and that is an industry-wide phenomenon and India is certainly in that category.

Content strategy and expansion plans

Our strategy continues to reach a larger number of audience to grow proportionally to younger audience, women and under-served audience, and also to reap the benefits of these four new language services, but all set to grow audience in the English language as well. We are doing more original journalism in Indian languages and that should also be reflected in English on TV. It's an overall reach growth I would say, along with revenue and commercial share in the important markets. Also the plan is to make shows that would connect with a younger audience, who don’t have the affinity with BBC.
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