BBC World Service on Wednesday announced its biggest expansion since the 1940s, including four new services in Marathi, Telugu, Gujarati and Punjabi and making its bureau in New Delhi the largest outside the United Kingdom.
The announcement follows a funding boost of £289 million until 2019-20 for the World Service from the British government. The new services are scheduled to be launched in 2017, according to a BBC statement.
The BBC Hindi service has been running since May 1940. The World Service currently broadcasts in Tamil, Bengali, Urdu and Nepali. It previously broadcast in Marathi and Gujarati, but the services were closed in the 1940s and 1950s.
BBC director-general Tony Hall said: “As we move towards our centenary, my vision is of a confident, outward-looking BBC which brings the best of our independent, impartial journalism and world-class entertainment to half a billion people around the world. Today is a key step towards that aim.”
Francesca Unsworth, BBC World Service director, said the announcement was about transforming the service by investing for the future. “We must follow our audience, who consume the news in changing ways; an increasing number of people are watching the World Service on TV, and many services are now digital-only,” she said.
BBC World Service currently broadcasts in 29 languages to 246 million people around the world weekly.