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Now BBC trains its lens on Indian elections

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MUMBAI: Not only political parties but news channels of every hue are gearing up for what is being billed as the mother of all general elections witnessed by this country.

The latest to hit the 2014 election trail is BBC World News, a broadcasting network that needs no prior introduction. For the first time, BBC will be broadcasting live from India with three of its best-known anchors flown into the country to present their shows from the subcontinent - Jon Sopel with Global, Mishal Hussain with Impact, and Babita Sharma with Newsday.

A week of special programming will lead into the main programming starting on the first day of polling on 7 April. This will continue for a week with the three anchors, along with special editions of India Business Report and Talking Business with Linda Yueh. Thereafter, it will rely on the expertise and knowledge of BBC teams in Delhi and Mumbai and the BBC Hindi service.

Alongside the television programming, an Indian version of the bbc.com mobile site will be created for users to land directly on the India page upon clicking the main url. The online content will be trilingual, with predominantly English content along with some in Hindi and Tamil. Among others, the shows will explore angles such as what the election means for India’s neighbours like Pakistan and China and what it means for the rupee.

“India is a massive market. The mobile penetration here is close to 200 million users. Our mobile traffic is up by 350 per cent in three years and there are profound changes going on here. The new India mobile edition will provide a tailored experience, including top India news stories along with global news headlines, video, business, sport and the best from our features content,” says BBC Global News CEO Jim Egan. “It’s a very big editorial undertaking for us. We haven’t taken the channel on the road like this. Topics that interest world audiences such as politics, economy, defence and culture, will be covered. We won’t do it superficially or trivially but bearing in mind that a majority of our viewers are outside India, we won’t do in-depth analysis like local channels.”

BBC correspondent-anchor Sopel is excited to be covering elections live in India. “Election in India is important because India is important. We have a polling day and you have a polling month! That’s because your total electorate is 840 million and the UK just has 48 million,” he says.

While adding a local flavour to its programming, the global broadcaster will ensure it serves BBC values such as impartiality, fairness and balance. “No other international channel has the network of specialist language correspondents that we have,” says Sopel.

On the cards is a marketing campaign in major metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai to let audiences know about BBC’s election coverage both on- and off- air. As of now though, BBC is busy figuring out whether to place the satellite dish in Mumbai or the national capital, depending on costs and feasibility.

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