'People are turning to the BBC as a source of global perspective on world events' : Rupert Gavin Chief executive of BBC Worldwide's

For Rupert Gavin, BBC Worldwide's chief executive, a trip to India seems linked to announcing a new programming initiative with Star India.

Last year he was in Mumbai in the middle of October to announce a licencing agreement with Star for the popular British television serials Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister for broadcast in Hindi as Ji Mantriji and Ji Pradhanmantriji respectively. Ji Mantriji is currently running on Star but Ji Pradhanmantriji seems to have gone into permanent cold storage.

This time round (25 October to be exact) it was to announce The Weakest Link, the biggest programming hit to come out of the BBC Worldwide stables in the last decade.

The largest non-US, English language television programme producer and exporter in the world (2000-01 programme sales increased from ?138m to ?150m), BBC Worldwide is still in the build phase as far as India is concerned, Gavin says. It is building the brand, building its presence so that it will be in a position to make investments. Once that happens, maybe India will contribute more than the 2 per cent it currently does to BBC Worldwide's sales.

In an interview with's Thomas Abraham, Gavin outlined BBC Worldwide's plans in the changed scenario post-11 September.

Post September 11, has there has been any particular change in strategy, how has the business model changed?

Since then, a lot has changed. Obviously our news programming, our news channels, have gained a lot. The world market has opened for documentaries. See, we probably have some of the best documentaries on Bin Laden, Al Qaida (the chief suspects in the attacks on the World Trade Centre). Nobody wanted them eight weeks ago. Now suddenly people who were not aware of these guys' movements are showing interest in buying these documentaries.

We are also aware of a shift in demand to a slightly more serious, more factual programming ethos. I think people's attitude to life, certainly in the West, has changed.

Is there a transformation in people's demands, are they more interested in trying to figure out what is happening outside America?

Big transformation. We have a lot of demand because a lot of the American papers have been writing that America's television news has become exclusively domestic. And certainly people are turning to the BBC as being a source of global perspective on world events. They are sad events no doubt but they have had a very significant and positive impact on us.

Obviously, the advertising market has been precarious. But the advertising market has been precarious all the way round the world. And that has an effect on us. But we will have to see how that shapes through.

'We are interested in bringing in more BBC channels, or channels in partnership with other people'

As a long term effect?

Whether it is a long term downturn or whether it is just a cycle.

What do you propose in India? Last year, there were a lot of things happening. There was also talk that you were in discussions with the Indian government regarding investment plans in broadcasting. What came of that?

We are still in discussions. It has been very a turbulent market and some of the changes that were going to take place did not. DTH, things like that, due to tight government restrictions. We are interested in the investment market in India. But things will have to move a little faster.

What projects are you looking at other than these?

We are interested in bringing in more BBC channels, or channels in partnership with other people. We are also interested in the radio market.

We are also expanding our publishing operations. At the moment, our publishing is gaining partnership with Penguin and the Noddies with Egmont.

From our perspective, and the traditional way that we work, is to expand by way of working with existing players on a licensed basis.

When we build on a sufficient scale in the market, we will start investing as well in infrastructure.

That is the programme of activity - we are in the build phase, which is why we are doing things with Star. Which is where Teletubbies and Noddy come in, as well as Ji Mantriji, the books with Penguin. We are actually building the brand, building our presence and that will help us to be in a position to make investments.

Any concrete investment plans?

Bring in channel operations. We are also looking at the possibilities of Radio, and publishing, maybe even magazines.

These will be BBC publications printed in India for sale in India?


As far as radio is concerned, do you have that kind of cachet in India? I think radio as a medium seems to have lost out.

We are primarily on short wave, with a certain amount of FM redistribution. But that's all. We have got to get to a stage where it is accepted that BBC news can be broadcast on domestic channels.

Basically FM? Is that what you are looking at?

That's right.

'We have got to get to a stage where it is accepted that BBC news can be broadcast on domestic channels'

But you say you have a small band on FM. Could you elaborate on that?

I think we must be having. It's not my particular area but we do have a range of partnerships for FM redistribution around the world. Or, a lot of people are listening to us on the Internet. But obviously for India, the bulk of our dependence is on short wave.

Talking about your short wave listenership, have you tracked that in any way? Has it gone down?

It has remained pretty steady, actually. It's surprising that. It's not increasing but it's stable.

Any numbers?

It's around 30 million. It's very substantial considering that our total weekly listenership to the (BBC) World Service around the world is around 153 million.

What do you think about broadband, the Internet? Even in the West, it has not taken off, leave aside India.

We are the biggest Internet content provider outside America. We just keep pumping out internet content. We use more video content than any other internet provider in the world. And that's part of the service we provide.

As people's connections get faster and faster, their appreciation of our service also gets better. But we've always been ahead of the curve. That's why we have all of our radio channels on the Internet. That's why we have all of our news bulletins, a lot of our video archives on the Internet. We have more video and audio on the Internet than any other media company in the world.

What about the revenue model? That's the question any Net-based venture confronts today.

The majority of is publicly funded. That is our unique difference. We are able to do that because of public funding.

What about BBC's current investments in India, is it increasing... decreasing?

Increasing. I can't give you any figures though.

What about worldwide sales figures; what is coming out of Asia and how much is the contribution of India in percentages?

It's modest. Of our total worldwide sales it's about two per cent.

And Asia?

Asia is more substantial. Asia is about 15 per cent, but that includes Australia, which is a very big market for us. Bear in mind that 50 per cent of our sales are in the UK

Still? But wasn't that the sales break-up average in 1999? You were thinking it would go up weren't you? But it hasn't really gone up.

No it has. The international is now above. So we have moved from international (sales) being about 45 per cent to about 55 per cent. That's been the change over three years.

Latest Reads
Know your karma on IBN7 with 'Karm Path'

In an attempt to give its viewers a refreshing start of the day, IBN7 is launching a new show titled Karm Path. Starting 27 October, the show will predict what the day holds. The show is a differentiator in its own genre as it connotes the supremacy of deeds over destiny.

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
Big Ganga available on Tata Sky now

Big Ganga has strengthened its distribution with DTH service provider Tata Sky.

Television TV Channels Regional
TV is story-teller's new novel; audience is Bharat, not India: Star's Banerjee

MUMBAI: Since five to six years, television has become the talking point. Th series such as 'Breaking Bad' to Transparent to Narcos to 'Game of Thrones' to 24, and now POW (Prisoners of Wars) has changed the experience of television viewing.

Television TV Channels GECs
Star World to air 1-5 of 'Homeland'

Star World and Star World HD is all geared up to air the pulse-pounding action series 'Homeland.' The show tackles geopolitical moral conundrums of our current world. It has recently unveiled the teaser for the upcoming season 6 shows how Carrie Mathison will circumvent around another international...

Television TV Channels English Entertainment
Share all World Cup, T-20 feeds with Prasar Bharati, rights holder told

The telecast of all official one-day and Twenty-20 matches played by the Indian Men’s Cricket Team will henceforth have to be shared by the rights holder with the public broadcaster Prasar Bharati under the Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act 2007.

Television TV Channels Terrestrial
Saregama returns to film music acquisition with Pen pact

Saregama India has inked a two-movie deal with Pen Movies. With this agreement, Saregama has acquired the music rights of upcoming Bollywood releases of Pen which includes Kahaani 2 -- Durga Rani Singh, featuring Vidya Balan and Arjun Rampal.Kahaani 2 is slated for a release on 2 December.

Television TV Channels Music and Youth
Q2-17: Zeel numbers, PAT up on higher Ad and Subscription revenue

The Subhash Chandra led content and broadcast player Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (Zeel) reported a 23 per cent hike in consolidated revenue for the quarter ended 30 September 2016 (Q2-17, current quarter) as compared to the corresponding quarter of the previous year.

Television TV Channels GECs
Best Deal TV appoints Hari Trivedi as COO

MUMBAI: Best Deal TV has appointed Hari Trivedi as the chief operating officer with immediate effect. Based in Mumbai, Trivedi will be responsible for overall sales and marketing. He would also be initializing lowest price offers and deals on Best Deal TV.

Television TV Channels People
Disney announces successor of MD Siddharth Roy-Kapur

MUMBAI: Walt Disney International has announced the successor to its former managing director Siddharth Roy-Kapur. As a second stint with the organization, Mahesh Samat has made a comeback and will lead The Walt Disney Company India as the managing director. He will pursue his new responsibility...

Television TV Channels People

Latest News

Load More

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories