Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

BBC Reorganizes India Operations Amid Regulatory Scrutiny and Tax Raids

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has restructured its India operations by establishing an independent production company, Collective Newsroom, in response to tax raids and legal challenges following the release of a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This new entity, formed by four ex-BBC staff members, aims to ensure compliance with Indian Foreign Direct Investment laws and will generate news content for the BBC’s regional services in six Indian languages, as well as for its English-language YouTube channel for global viewers.

Despite these changes, the BBC maintains its newsgathering presence in India for its English digital, TV, and radio outlets, coordinated from London. This strategic move, seen as a way to uphold journalistic commitments to Indian and international audiences, follows heightened scrutiny after the BBC aired a documentary examining Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots and subsequent government policies.

The documentary’s ban in India, citing emergency powers under IT rules, ignited widespread discussions on media freedom. Despite facing governmental pressure, including extensive tax raids on its offices, the BBC continues to pledge impartial reporting. With the newly formed Collective Newsroom, the BBC aims to navigate regulatory landscapes while reaching millions with its diverse language services, maintaining its historical presence in India since 1940.

People walk outside the BBC headquarters in Portland Place, London on July 2, 2020. The BBC announced on Thursday its intention to cut 450 jobs in England as part of a digital savings and development plan, bringing to 600 the jobs cut in the regional branches of the British public audiovisual group. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

The Hindi service will now be produced by the Collective Newsroom, along with Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu – as well as a YouTube channel BBC News India in English.

But the Collective Newsroom – which was formed by four BBC staff members and will employ about 200 former BBC employees – will also be able to make content for other news providers across India and globally.

The remaining 90 BBC staff members will still work directly for the broadcaster in news gathering operations for television, radio and online in English, reporting to editors in London. Their work will still be available to Indian audiences, although it will not be published in India.

The BBC has also applied for a 26% stake in the new company, a first for the broadcaster’s global operations anywhere.

Rupa Jha, chief executive of Collective Newsroom, said the new company has “a clear, ambitious mission to create the most credible, creative and courageous journalism”.

She added: “Audiences will quickly come to know Collective Newsroom as an independent news organization that leads with the facts, works in the public interest and hears from diverse voices and perspectives.”

Gaurav Bhatia, a spokesman from Mr Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said at the time that the timing of the raids had nothing to do with the documentary, which the government attempted to block being shared in India.

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