BBC India Restructures Business After Centre Tweaks FDI Rules

BBC India Restructures Business After Centre Tweaks FDI Rules

The BBC has handed over its newsroom publishing licence in India to a private limited company, Collective Newsroom – a first for the public service broadcaster’s global operations anywhere in the world. The move comes a year after searches at its offices by the Income Tax department.

Collective Newsroom, founded by four former BBC employees, will commence its operations from April 10. A wholly India-based company, it will produce content for the BBC’s digital services in English, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu. 

As per the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), Collective Newsroom Private Limited was incorporated on October 27 last year.

“We are not exclusively signed up with the BBC. The BBC is our first client. We have a production agreement with the BBC, and we will be producing content for the BBC across its six different language services and India’s English YouTube channel,” Rupa Jha, Chief Executive Officer of the Collective Newsroom, told NDTV.

“We will keep the BBC Editorial Guidelines in mind when producing content for them, such as the kind of journalism the BBC practices. Upholding the trust in the BBC brand is our responsibility to carry forward.

“What we will do will be completely aligned with the journalistic values of the BBC. We have faith in the BBC, and the BBC has faith in us; that is why we are undertaking all of this. We have to conduct journalism that can be trusted,” she said.

The restructuring was prompted by the new Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) rules, which were introduced in 2020, that imposed a 26% FDI limit in India’s digital media sector.

Companies exceeding the 26% FDI limit were required to reduce their foreign investment to comply with this regulation by October 2021.

99.99% of BBC World Service India’s shares are owned by its UK-based public broadcaster.

The BBC has sought a 26% stake in its recently established Collective Newsroom company, a source told NDTV.

“There were a number of options before us. Considering that the BBC didn’t want to lose its presence in India or cut jobs, and they didn’t want it to become financially unviable, this forced us to think out of the box. Based on the legal advice the BBC was receiving, everyone was veering towards this as the viable option (of setting up the Collective),” Ms Jha was quoted saying by The Indian Express

Tax searches were carried out at the BBC’s Delhi and Mumbai offices in February last year after it aired a controversial two-part series titled ‘India: The Modi Question’ that featured the 2002 Gujarat riots.

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