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The BBC’s Portrayal of India: An Analysis of how the International News Coverage of India Changed in the Digital Era

Thumpakattu, Joshy (2021). The BBC’s Portrayal of India: An Analysis of how the International News Coverage of India Changed in the Digital Era. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Digital technologies continue to transform journalism practices worldwide. The emergence of digital technologies have similarly transformed the BBC's news coverage of India, with whom it has a longstanding relationship. In this context, this thesis examines the BBC's international news reporting of India in a digital era and assesses how new technologies have changed the practices of the BBC journalists reporting on India. A mixed-methods approach is followed in this research, which includes content analysis and semi-structured interviews. The content analysis examines Programmes as Broadcast (PasBs) of BBC Radio World News Service broadcasts of 1977 and 1997, which are compared to BBC Radio World News Service news broadcasts of 2019. It also examines online Indian international news broadcasts of the BBC, CNN and AJE in the year 2019. These content analyses explore: the frequency of news, the sources used in news reports, the time/space dedicated to the Indian news, the range of news reported and comparisons with other news platforms. Meanwhile, semi-structured interviews with current and former BBC journalists in India are used to research the changes in journalistic practices on account of digital technologies. Additionally, this study looks at the significant similarities and differences in online news reporting of India between the BBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera English. This has served as a benchmark to analyse the global standing of BBC online against other major media houses reporting from three different viewpoints, i.e., the European (the BBC), the American (CNN) and the Asian (AJE).

The research results show that, as communication technology changed, there were more international news stories about India, a wider range of news topics were addressed, and a greater range of news sources were included. The interviews suggest that digital technologies are a core reason for this more diverse and broad coverage, but variables such as geographical proximity, regional and national interests and business prospects still play a significant role in the scope of news coverage and broadcast, as do individual editorial policies.

The research demonstrates that in India, the BBC journalists adapted themselves to the emerging digital technologies that changed the journalistic practices from the reception of news information to dissemination of the news. The adaptation of digital technologies enabled them to be forewarned of an emerging news story, facilitated them to approach news stories from various dimensions or viewpoints, and empowered them to access sources remotely while sitting in their offices with the possibility of broadened scope of reachability. The journalists had to bear in mind that the dissemination of news happened on multiple platforms in different formats, and so the featured news item had to cater to different platforms through which it was disseminated. When traditional journalism blended with digital technologies, journalism's scope was redefined, and it empowered the journalists with a wider range and newer feasibilities.

This research contributes to a body of literature examining the BBC's contemporary reporting of India and the impact of new digital technologies on the BBC journalists reporting on India. It also reinforces the earlier findings of Harcup and O'Neil (2017) and Singer (2014) that journalists continue to be information gatekeepers even in a digital media environment, with altered roles and duties.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
T Technology > T Technology (General)
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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