John Walker's Electronic House

Welcome To Bollywood

by on Apr.20, 2007, under The Rest

Does anyone know why the BBC News website is so focused on Bollywood?

Today one of the top three biggest stories in the world, on the front page, is apparently a story about two Bollywood actors getting married.

Am I completely out of touch, and Bollywood has become a massive deal in the UK, bigger than Hollywood?

Or is there something more peculiar going on? Does the BBC hugely invest in the Indian film industry?

I don’t care either way, resigned as I am that stories about Madonna adopting Angelina will be considered important enough to reach the front page, and so it might as well do the same for any film industry of any country. But the Bollywood theme is recurring, while French, Australian, Italian etc industries are all but ignored, and I’m intrigued to know why.

7 Comments for this entry

  • James T

    I guess it’s something to do with Celebrity Big Brother. I’d be surprised if anyone could have missed the furore, except possibly by spending the whole of January and February in somewhere like Chicago, which I guess is a possibility in your case. Just in case, here’s what happened.

    It started when five of the white contestants took exception to Bollywood superstar Shilpa Shetty. Soon people were speculating that there could be racism involved, a story which the tabloid media took great delight in whipping up as much as possible. Politicians saw an opportunity to score a few political-correctness points and started sticking their oar in, even though they’d presumably not really been watching the show.

    Shilpa won the show, and became a figurehead for the anti-racism and anti-bullying lobbies. The incident served as hugely positive publicity for Bollywood, and I suspect the hype has never fully died down.

    (For what it’s worth, it seemed to me that the clashes in the house were over issues symptomatic of differing cultures, but there was little evidence of direct racial prejudice. For me, the incident served as a lesson in the power of the media and the irrelevance of truth.)

  • Rob F

    Their coverage of Bollywood stories has definitely increased since Shilpa Shetty was plastered all over every newspaper in the country earlier this year. However, the BBC has always done a fairly significant level of coverage of Bollywood compared to most other news sources.

    I suspect it may well be a policy decision at the corporation, and you can see the reasoning in some senses. A fairly large proportion of the BBC’s license payers are Indian or of Indian descent, after all, so you could argue that covering Bollywood news is a service to that community as a whole (while covering the film industries in other European countries would mostly be a service simply to film fans).

    I’m not sure that actually stands up to any kind of logical assessment, but I suspect it’s what’s at the heart of the whole thing…

  • John

    I did notice the whole Shetty/Goody debacle, and as far as I could tell, it was a stupid woman saying the sorts of things someone as stupid as her would say based on how stupid she was, rather than with any racial malice. Her mother, however, appeared to be a racist hag. But that’s based on the quotes written on the BBC News site, as I was buggered if I was going to watch a nano-second of the hateful bilge. To have watched even one glimpse would take away my pretentious and unpleasantly snobbish bragging rights to say I’d never watched any of it.

    But the phenomenon predates that by years. They’ve always given a completely disproportionate amount of coverage to an extremely niche subject, and it’s always confused me.

    Were you right Rob, then it would be quite lovely – recognising a significant Indian population, and giving Indian interest stories a relatively high position in the national news seems extremely right-headed. However, I’m not sure this can be true. There’s a very large Pakistani community, but little of their cultural news is presented. In fact, they’re only mentioned when India and they are pointing weapons at each other. There’s a decent sized number of Greek people living here, but unless My Big Unfunny Overlong Half-Arsed Greek Wedding counts, there’s not much coverage dedicated there either.

    Good grief, there’s enough Australians, but unless it’s Kylie, their film business is relegated to the sidebars of the Entertainment section.

    Who knows. I have zero knowledge of population sizes of other nationalities, or those descending from those nationalities, in the UK, so I might be talking out of my arse.

  • Masked Dave

    I’ve noticed that a Bollywood film tends to get released every couple of months these days, so maybe there is a large audience for it.

    Anyway, since the British film industry doesn’t really get mentioned unless the name is Pegg or Curtis it doesn’t surprise me that most of those other countries just get lumped with into “western” film press.

  • Graham

    It’s worth noting that Bollywood, or Indian Cinema as a whole, is the largest film industry in the world in terms of both their prolific output and the number of cinema tickets sold. Indian films are also hugely popular in Pakistan, so covering it is probably a fair service to the BBC’s license payers.

    Apparently Britain is 85% White British, 5% White Other, 1.8% Indian and 1.3% Pakistani. But while White Other probably refers to Europeans, the German, French and Italian film industries are tiny by comparison.

    The US film industry is also as popular in the rest of Europe as it is in the UK, so your servicing that audience by covering whatever Brad Pitt is up to this week. Indians and Pakistanis, however, as a result of having their own strong film industry, might not care about what Brad Pitt is doing. Shock shock horror horror.

    To be honest though, I’d rather they didn’t cover things based solely on the demographics. I know no here was suggesting they should, but looking at the HYS comments on this wedding story, there are a lot of people offended that the BBC are wasting time not on a wedding, but on a wedding between two Bollywood stars of which they haven’t heard.

    If you only provide coverage for the things people already care about, you become more insular. Indian cinema, whether it’s a big deal in the UK or not, is a big deal worldwide. By paying attention to it, you’re hopefully making the UK population more well-rounded and aware of the world beyond their own borders. That would appear to be firmly within the BBC’s remit, and more important than just jerking off the centre with the latest football scores.

  • James T

    John, given the disingenuousness of the reporting on Big Brother, I’m impressed that you’ve managed to piece together such an accurate assessment of events, based on snippets. (That so many of the public failed to do likewise I suppose is testament to their relative stupidity. ) This is good news for you as it reinforces your right to the snobbish bragging that I know you enjoy so much!

    Anyway, not only are the other film industries smaller than Bollywood, as Graham mentions, but also I think they are of less cultural interest. For example, Australians, like the white British, are probably generally more interested in Hollywood than their own film industry.

    Therefore, I propose we revert to Rob F’s ‘quite lovely’ theory.

  • John

    Hurrah – quite lovely it is.

    Now, BBC, stop reporting trivial rubbish about actors getting married on the front page, you idiotic hacks.