Cabinet clears FDI in print media

A holy cow has been laid to rest after almost half a century. This morning, the Indian government opened up the print media sector to foreign investment. The Union Cabinet has permitted 26 per cent foreign direct investment in the news and current affairs segment in the Indian print media and 74 per cent in the non-news, non-current affairs segment, Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj told journalists in Delhi. 

This has reversed a decision of the Union Cabinet in 1955 which disallowed foreign investment in print media and had had hitherto been considered as the defacto law.

The government took the decision despite solid resistance from select media groups which have lobbied hard to blockade foreign investment in print. Additionally, there has been a lot of opposition within the current government too. One of the media groups probably had an inkling that something like this would happen for it carried a front page story in the leading Indian English newspaper saying that the NDA and the opposition were against any FDI in print media today and that the government should not go back on its earlier decision to disallow FDI in print media.

Swaraj, while making the announcement, declared that certain riders had been laid for allowing FDI. For starters, the Indian shareholding should be significantly higher than the 26 per cent FDI. Second, if the the shareholding pattern was changed by the foreign investor, the I&B ministry had to be compulsorily informed. Third, editorial control will have to remain in Indian hands, and also three-fourths of the editorial posts will have to be filled by Indians. Additionally, the credentials of the foreign investor would necessarily have to be verified by the government before giving him the green signal.

Talking about the decision to open up the sector, Swaraj posed a question to journalists: "Why should one sector be left closed? We started with manufacturing went on to services and now we have gone on to print." 

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