Cricket and cocktails, BBC serves up a heady mix

NEW DELHI: Hype is a necessity and parties are results of that. Sounds like a Sidhuism? With India catching the cricket fever, why not? Not to forget that cricket, glamour and hype make a deadly cocktail and an enjoyable one too.

Rock group Silk Route performs at the BBC World India's party held at Ssteel bar in Ashoka Hotel, Delhi. So last Thursday, BBC World's India office invited some page-three types, a few media people and had a live performance by a rock group at Delhi's latest hotspot, the Ssteel bar at the Ashoka Hotel. MF Hussain, for a change seen wearing shoes, was thrown in as an additional sop. All this to announce that beginning Monday (3 February), BBC World would have cricket-related programmes.

In between music, liquor and constant cheek kissing, caught up with TV News Channels of BBC News commissioning editorNarendhra Morar.

BBC World is changing the concept of India-specific programming in the sense that instead of getting a programme to run for weeks, the news and current affairs channel is looking at shorter runs for such programming.

Narendhra Morar, Sanjay Manjrekar and Jane Gorard at the party held by BBC World to announce cricket-related programmes that start airing from 3 February 2003.

According to Morar, BBC World is looking at India-specific programmes that is different from the run of the mill stuff. For example, Morar is looking for programmes like Business Bazaar, a programme that is far-removed in treatment from the likes of India Business Report.

"We haven't yet commissioned the programming, but are looking for new business programmes too," Morar said, adding, "It can be a six-part documentary, for instance."

But try as much you like, beyond this Morar, nor his colleague Jane Gorard, director of marketing at BBC, would add much on business programming.

BBC World is finalising another quiz show to go on air. However,Master Mind India hosted by Siddharth Basu, who incidentally is fine-tuning a mega show for Doordarshan as well, continues to be a key property for BBC World with avid audience response.

That BBC World is going in for changes in programming is evident from the fact that even the old war-horse like the Karan Thapar hosted Face to Face is getting revamped and the new look would be unveiled some time in April after the hype and hoopla over cricket subsides.

Without revealing much, Morar said, "It (Face to Face) will be different as will be the new quiz show."

Asked the oft-asked question on competition, CNN that is, Morar dismissed it as a non-issue. Almost. "Where are they (CNN in India)?" Morar counter-punches and then with a smile pregnant with many thoughts, retorts, "They have also done shows which are copies of shows that we had done earlier."

Certainly Morar and BBC World were in a combative mood. But they can afford to be - India is one of the very few markets where BBC is far ahead of CNN in terms of market share. May be some part of India's long-standing association and fascination for BBC radio has rubbed off on the television venture too.

Ask Morar or Gorard about financial details and they would start giving those sweet smiles that are almost akin to the traffic red light - not beyond this point. You probe a bit harder and what you get from Morar is: the programming budget for India has remained constant, though as a commissioning editor I would like more.

Addressability in Indian cable homes, of course, would not affect BBC World as it would continue to be a free to air channel. That's certain.

For the records sake, the cricket fever would get unleashed on BBC World from 3 February and lined up are fare like the Sanjay Manjrekar hosted interactive chat show Captains Call, Young Turks, India Calling and Africa Calling. Not content, BBC World has also managed to convince Thapar of Face to Face to do cricket specials with Rahul Dravid and loudmouth Navjot Singh Sidhu. And as a final sop, there is India Business Report that over two editions looks at the business of cricket and the big moolah involved - all for a deeper understanding of cricket. That should provide some competition fro CNBC India, which is doing a series called Business of Cricket.

And, if this correspondent has missed out on any other aspect, then you and BBC can blame it safely on Ssteel and its spirited atmosphere.

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