Mumbai: The BBC World Service Wednesday launched radio as well as mobile and web content in four more Indian languages—Telugu, Gujarati, Marathi and Punjabi. The launch, which is part of its global expansion plans, will create 157 new jobs in the region and make Delhi the BBC’s largest bureau outside the UK, the broadcaster said.
“This is a historic day for the BBC, as we announce the biggest expansion of the World Service since the 1940s, (thanks to our greatest ever funding boost). The BBC World Service is a jewel in the crown–for the BBC and for Britain... As we move towards our centenary, my vision is of a confident, outward-looking BBC which brings the best of our independent, impartial journalism and world-class entertainment to half a billion people around the world. Today is a key step towards that aim,” Tony Hall, director- general of the BBC said in a statement. Hall has set a target for the BBC to reach 500 million people worldwide by its centenary in 2022.
The BBC World Service currently broadcasts around the world in 29 languages to 246 million people weekly. In total, the BBC reaches a weekly global audience of 348 million people.
The move is designed to bring independent journalism to millions more people around the world, including those in places where media freedom is under threat, BBC said.
This announcement follows a funding of £289million until 2019-20 for the World Service from the UK government, which was announced last year. The first new services are expected to launch in 2017.
The BBC World Service is also introducing seven other language services including Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Igbo, Korean, Pidgin, Tigrinya and Yoruba, taking the total number of languages that the BBC World Services is available in to 40, including English. The company will hire more journalists to implement this expansion.
BBC World Service will also expand its digital services to offer more mobile and video content, a greater social media presence and new ways of reaching its audience around the globe, the statement said. Focusing particularly on increasing audience reach with younger people and women.
“Today’s announcement is about transforming the World Service by investing for the future. We must follow our audience, who consume the news in changing ways; an increasing number of people are watching the World Service on TV, and many services are now digital-only. We will be able to speed up our digital transformation, especially for younger audiences, and we will continue to invest in video news bulletins. What will not change is our commitment to independent, impartial journalism,” said Francesca Unsworth, director, BBC World Service.