A year after its offices were surveyed by tax officials, the BBC in India split its news-gathering operations from Wednesday with the launch of Collective Newsroom, The Indian Express reported.

According to the report, Collective Newsroom — an Indian-owned media company that will produce content for the British broadcaster — is helmed by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rupa Jha and fellow directors Mukesh Sharma, Sanjoy Majumder, and Sara Hasan.

In its report, the BBC said it was separating in two from Wednesday as it sought to meet India’s foreign investment (FDI) rules.

In December last year, the BBC had announced the formation of Collective Newsroom, stating that the new entity “would enable it to meet its commitment to audiences in India and globally, while also complying with Indian FDI law”.

“The move comes a year after BBC India’s offices were searched by authorities,” the broadcaster noted.

The searches “by income tax officials came weeks after the broadcaster aired a documentary in the UK — but not in India — critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi”, the BBC highlighted.

It added that Collective Newsroom, which it described as a “new [and] independent” company, would now produce content for its six other Indian language services.

The Hindi service will now be produced by Collective Newsroom — along with Marathi, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu — as well as a YouTube channel ‘BBC News India’ in English, the British broadcaster said.

It further said Collective Newsroom, which was formed by four BBC staff members and will employ about 200 former BBC employees, would also be able to make content for other news providers across India and globally.

The remaining 90 BBC staff members will still work directly for the broadcaster in news-gathering operations for television, radio and online in English, reporting to editors in London. Their work will still be available to Indian audiences, although it will not be published in India, the BBC report said.

The BBC has also applied for a 26 per cent stake in the new company, a first for the broadcaster’s global operations anywhere, it highlighted.

Collective Newsroom has “a clear, ambitious mission to create the most credible, creative and courageous journalism”, the BBC quoted the CEO of the newly formed company as saying.

CEO Jha added: “Audiences will quickly come to know Collective Newsroom as an independent news organisation that leads with the facts, works in the public interest and hears from diverse voices and perspectives.”

Meanwhile, The Indian Express quoted a statement from Collective Newsroom: “Publishing from India, Collective Newsroom will create programmes and content for our first client, the BBC, and is available to make content for other news providers across India and around the globe.”

The statement added that the arrangement with the BBC included the contract to produce content for BBC News Hindi — the BBC’s language service with the largest audience.

“I’m thrilled that Collective Newsroom has officially launched with a clear, ambitious mission to create the most credible, creative and courageous journalism, and with a wealth of experience and talent in our incredible teams,” CEO Jha said, according to The Indian Express.

In February last year, Indian tax authorities raided BBC‘s New Delhi offices, weeks after it aired a documentary on Modi’s actions during deadly sectarian riots in 2002.

Tax officials searched BBC premises in New Delhi and Mumbai the next day as well, drawing criticism from prominent media bodies inside India. A government official said India had embarked on an income tax survey of BBC offices after the news organisation failed to offer a convincing response to earlier tax notices.

As the inspection at the offices entered a third day, the officials examined mobile phones and laptops used by some BBC editorial and administrative employees.

In January 2023, the BBC had aired a two-part documentary alleging that Modi ordered police to turn a blind eye to sectarian riots in Gujarat state, where he was premier at the time. The violence left at least 1,000 people dead, most of them minority Muslims.

India’s government had blocked videos and tweets sharing links to the documentary using emergency powers under its information technology laws.

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