BBC has announced the launch of its mobile site, featuring audio, text and image content targeting India’s small but apparently growing mobile Internet user base. The site has a text version at http://m.bbchindi.com and for phones that don’t support Hindi text, there’s an image version at http://m.bbchindi.com/image. Alongwith news content, the BBC Hindi site also provides access to its Learning English content, though that is primarily text based. Learn English is a content offering from other service providers as well.
The BBC is certainly expanding its distribution in India this year: BBC Hindi recently inked a deal with Jagran Prakashan for print content, and earlier this year, they launched a premium voice blog on Airtel.
You Don’t Really Need An FM License To Do Audio News
But what’s more interesting is the availability of audio content: I just downloaded a morning news bulletin ‘Namaskar Bharat’ (apparently updated 6:30am), which is 7.08 mb, and has 30 minutes of programming. The site also offers a 60 minute news bulletin, and a one minute news summary. However, BBC’s audio content isn’t just on its mobile website: on a single number 505-10-10-74 across mobile operators in India, through its Interactive Voice Response number, the BBC offers Hindi News, Sports Entertainment News, English News on demand.
We know that private FM broadcasters aren’t allowed to offer news in India, but this is clearly an instance of a media company setting up a mobile alternative. The mobile medium has the largest reach in India (with over 650 million connections active), and probably a wider reach than FM does at present. Also, the service doesn’t necessarily need to be on a telecom operator network: as Veer Bothra had written a couple of years ago, a voice site can be set up at around Rs. 1 lakh, and now, at Rs. 0.01 per second of usage, access isn’t very expensive either.