This week on the News website we take a wide-ranging look at the rapid changes taking place in contemporary India, a growing global economic power which is home to roughly one in six of the world’s people. Our series of online features is timed to coincide with a BBC World Service season of radio programmes called ‘India Rising’.
The theme is a familiar one to anyone who follows the day-to-day coverage on our South Asia news pages, for example the recent forecast that, although it still has to contend with extensive poverty, huge wealth disparities, skills shortages and poor infrastructure, India could overtake Britain and have the world's fifth largest economy within a decade.
Last week I was in India to launch our mobile photo competition for the region, talk to media students and visit our journalists in the BBC’s Delhi and Mumbai (Bombay) offices. While I was there, as if to illustrate the theme of India’s economic rise, Mumbai-based Tata Steel made its successful multi-billion dollar takeover bid for Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus.
One of the things that struck me most was the pace of change in the Indian media. There’s an explosion in the number of TV news and financial channels (now more than 30, according to one report), a booming advertising market and 18 daily newspapers with a circulation of more than five million each. Again while I was there, a new business paper launched a local partnership with the Wall Street Journal.
Where, I was asked by some of the media students I spoke to, does the BBC fit into all this? What can we provide for the Indian audience that their own lively and prolific media can’t or doesn’t?
The reply I gave was that the BBC, with its long tradition of broadcasting to the region, is a familiar and trusted name for many, which counts for a lot in what is still a volatile part of the world. BBC World TV and our online services are building new audiences, especially among the young urban middle classes and, as an international news provider with an extensive reporting network and a broad agenda, we provide a different perspective and reflect back to Indian readers, viewers and listeners how their country is seen by others and where it fits into the wider regional and global picture.
If you are in India or read our South Asia coverage regularly, what do you think? How do international news broadcasters and websites compare with Indian ones? Do those sound like the things that mark us out amongst the stiff competition?