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BBC India restructures business to comply with new FDI norms; Collective Newsroom to take charge next week

The BBC has submitted an application to the Indian government seeking a 26% ownership stake in the private limited company.

The BBC has restructured its newsroom in India, transferring its publishing license to a private limited company called Collective Newsroom formed by four of its former employees, according to a report in The Indian Express. This is a first for the public service broadcaster’s global operations anywhere in the world. It comes a year after the network faced scrutiny from Income Tax authorities over alleged violations.

Beginning next week, a new setup will be in place where the private limited company will take charge. The India offices of this company will be responsible for generating content across seven languages—Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu—for the BBC's digital services.

The restructuring of the BBC's operations in India was spurred by the implementation of new Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) regulations in 2020, which imposed a 26% limit on FDI in India's digital media sector. Companies exceeding the 26 percent FDI threshold were required to adhere to this regulation by October 2021. The UK-based public service broadcaster owns 99.99% of BBC World Service India’s shares. It has been reported that the BBC has submitted an application to the Indian government seeking a 26% ownership stake in this private limited company. 

“It’s unprecedented for the BBC to grant their license to publish to another entity… We will not compromise our journalism and the BBC is solidly behind us,” said Rupa Jha, chief executive officer, Collective Newsroom. She is also one of the four founding shareholders and has been a senior news editor at BBC India.

The British Broadcaster had announced its plans to launch a new company to comply with India’s foreign direct investment (FDI) rules in December 2023. In a statement, the UK-based public service broadcaster announced that Collective Newsroom replaces BBC World Service India, which will now provide language-based content.

“The establishment of Collective Newsroom Private Limited ensures the BBC and Collective Newsroom can meet their shared commitment to Indian audiences and cover stories on India that matter to global audiences. It is in compliance with the Indian Foreign Direct Investment law,” read the BBC statement.

The BBC premises in Mumbai and Delhi underwent tax surveys in February 2023 and subsequent investigations by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in April 2023 regarding alleged violations of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) regulations. These searches came days after it aired a documentary that featured the 2002 Gujarat riots.

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