Jim Egan, CEO, BBC Global News, was in India on 26 November 2013 to announce the launch of the network's India Direct series, scheduled to go on air in 2014. On the sidelines of the event, Campaign India caught up with Egan and Preet K Dhupar, COO, BBC India, to learn more about the series and the network's plans in India.
What’s the thought behind launching India Direct?
Jim Egan (JE): Once or twice a year, across BBC World News, we run these ‘Direct’ campaigns, which spotlight content in a particular market around the world. Obviously, India’s going to be the centre stage because of the general elections next year in addition to all of the other ongoing social and business themes. We’ll be starting India Direct in 2014.
What’s the programming mix for the initiative?
JE: We do a combination of things, in our Direct series. There are one-off shows as well as other special programmes of our regular flagship content. India Direct report, which is our stable business and finance show in India, will play a significant part of the season. We’ve also then got Working Lives Ahmedabad, in which we will be meeting residents from across the economic spectrum with very different jobs and social positions in the city.
We’ve got a football show, where we will focus on Pune FC. We’ll be meeting the players, and their Dutch manager. We’ll be learning about football in a country traditionally enamoured with cricket. We will also meet another football team, one made up of dalits, who can only aspire to the big time.
We have a monthly programme called Talking Movies running for the past 15 years. We’ll be doing an Indian version of that too. Other than Bollywood, we’ll also be focussing on regional cinema. Hopefully, it’s an innovative take on Indian cinema.
These are three of the standout shows.
We’ll be working both on TV and online. Our other regular programmes will also have an India perspective.
Since you’re looking at targetting India as a market because of the general elections, what plans do you have for that?
JE: We’re a global channel and so we seek to relay the most significant events and stories around the world. Obviously, the Indian elections is going to be one of the big elections globally next year and we will be following them.
How is BBC World News going to promote India Direct?
Preet Dhupar (PD): We will promote the shows extensively. For now, we’re still in the process of finalising the plans. We want people in India and outside the world to watch our country specials.
Since, we’ll be airing the shows online too, there will be some activity planned online as well.
Will the online content be different from the TV content?
JE: Our web content is generally video-based, but we don’t just make regular TV shows available on the website. We’ve been running a series called Digital Indians recently, which focussed on Indian web entreprenuers, which were put up online. The fact that we’re big online as well is useful because we have 60 million unique users accessing our website a month globally.
Has digitisation impacted BBC’s viewership in India?
PKD: It has increased for sure. If you look at our share across the English news channels, we’ve seen an increase. But, I think we’ve to still see the market for trends once digitisation sets in completely. We hope with digitisation, more and more people will get access to our channel.
What about the size of the content team in India... has that increased?
JE: We have a team of close to 100 journalists working for the BBC across India. Most of them would be based out of our bureau in New Delhi, which includes our Hindi language offerings.