Television

FIPB turns down TV 18 proposal

NEW DELHI: The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), on recommendation of the information and broadcasting ministry, has turned down a proposal from Television Eighteen Ltd. to offload 15 per cent equity stake to CNBC Asia in a subsidiary that uplinks the CNBC TV 18 business channel from India.

Contacted by indiantelevision.com, a senior I&B ministry official said that since the uplinking subsidiary, iNews.com, had not sought its permission for uplinking from India, it recommended to the FIPB not to consider the proposal of foreign investment.

"There are several issues on which clarity is lacking, including the fact that in the parent company of iNews (TV 18) there is foreign portfolio investment amounting to about 10 per cent," the I&B official explained the ground on which it had not given the TV 18 proposal a no-objection, a mandatory procedure that is followed by the FIPB.

TV 18 CEO Haresh Chawla told indiantelevision.com today evening, "Well we are still optimistic about the fact that the doubts of the government would be cleared and we would clarify the points raised by the I&B ministry."

The I&B ministrys stand is that since there are certain doubts on the issue, the whole matter would amount to non-compliance of the uplinking norms announced by the government in March.

According to the uplinking guidelines, news channel desirous of uplinking from India cannot have more than 26 per cent foreign holding in the company. 

As an another safety measure --- learning from the experience of Star News --- the government had also stipulated that one single Indian entity ought to hold a majority shareholding of 51 per cent in the news venture. On this count too the government is not clear as the shareholding of the promoters of TV 18 is said to be less than 51 per cent. 

The I&B ministry official, however, added that once TV 18 comes forward seeking permission, the proposal could be taken up for review. 

In an official statement sent to indiantelevision.com, TV 18 said that in reaction to a "negative response" to the application in connection with the recent restructuring of CNBC-TV18, the parties concerned "shall study the grounds on which the FIPB has disallowed the application, and shall reserve their right to submit further clarifications to the government to strengthen their case for the induction of this equity."

The statement, quoting Television Eighteen India Ltd. MD Raghav Bahl, said : "We shall work closely with CNBC Asia Pacific in making suitable representations to the government of India to review their decision. While we do so, the operations of CNBC-TV18, the 24-hour business channel owned and operated by TV18, shall continue as before."

Alexander Brown, president and CEO of CNBC Asia Pacific in the statement said : "We are committed to the Indian marketplace, and to our partnership with TV18. We will review the situation with TV18 in order to determine the best way ahead, and look forward to a successful conclusion of this matter."

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