Putting India's election coverage in motion
We have had a variety of comments from BBC audiences around the world concerning the BBC's India Election Train. Some people are enthusiastic. Others have complained about the cost and appropriateness of the BBC hiring and painting a train. I will attempt to explain the thinking behind the project.
I hope that effective coverage by the BBC of the Indian elections would be a priority for all users of the BBC - whether in the UK, India or internationally. Covering an election is not just about reporting the political campaigns and the eventual results. It is also an opportunity to examine the country and its people in depth.
India is an increasingly important country and this is the world's biggest-ever election. Our reporting of it takes as its theme the question: "Will India's voters revive the world's fortunes?" We will be assessing whether the comparative strength of the Indian economy might assist the rest of the world that is in recession, and therefore have an impact on us all.
Using a train allows us to journey through this vast country, reaching remote locations. The journey allows us to assess issues like the economy, regional differences, religion and caste identity etc. Our teams are not remote from the story. At each stop, they will be reporting from the location, mixing with people and reporting their views to the world. They won't just be doing this for English-speaking audiences. They will also be reporting in 13 languages, including Hindi, Somali, Urdu, Tamil, Burmese, Vietnamese and Arabic.
So why use a train and why paint it with the BBC logo? Trains are an iconic form of transport in India. This train will carry our broadcasting facilities and act as a mobile studio. It's a practical way to allow the BBC team to cover the vast distances and to get a little bit of sleep between their hard work in each location.
We have, at low cost, decorated the train so that our large Indian audience and our global TV/online audiences can see what we are doing. As well as reporting the news thoroughly, you need to get noticed in the world's very busy news market. Already over one hundred articles have been written in the Indian press about the train. Getting what we do noticed makes the project more cost-effective, not less.
Lastly, I should address the cost of the train. The UK licence fee is only making a minority contribution to the cost of the project. The overwhelming majority of the other funding comes from the BBC's commercial global news revenues and from the World Service. Bringing the various sources of BBC funding together like this gives great value for money.
I think few international news organisations would have the scope to attempt to bring this intriguing election to life in this way. Our audiences around the world should find something of fascination from this imaginative exercise.
Peter Horrocks is the director of BBC World Service.