Now, uplinking caps may apply for regional channels too

NEW DELHI: It is not only the likes of Star News, CNBC-TV18 and Zee News that have to restructure their shareholding pattern to comply with the foreign investment cap of 26 per cent on news channels uplinking from India.

The government may extend the dragnet to some regional channels too, like Alpha Bangla, Alpha Marathi, Alpha Gujarati (from the Zee Telefilms stable) and Vijay TV in which the Rupert Murdoch-controlled Star has over 40 per cent equity stake indirectly.



While Star News and CNBC-TV18 have restructured themselves to fall within the permissible limits, Zee News is yet to initiate a restructuring, taking full advantage of the one year time granted to it. Star News' final clearance from the government is expected over the next 10 days.

While formulating a new uplinking policy, announced on 26 March 2003, the government had also said that any entertainment channel that beams news and current affairs programming would have to adhere to the prescribed norms and caps if the news venture has foreign investment.

According to data laid by the government on the table of the Lok Sabha (Lower House) today, Alpha Gujarati, Punjabi, Bangla and Marathi - apart from Zee News and Zee TV - have foreign holding of 57.54 per cent.

Interestingly, according to the information on Zee Telefilms' site, the total foreign shareholding in the company mounts to 61.7 per cent as on 30 September, 2003.

When contacted by, a spokesperson for Zee Telefilms admitted that Alpha channels do air news bulletins, apart from entertainment-related programmes, and said, "All Zee Network television channels are subsidiaries/divisions of Zee and restructuring compliance will be across the spectrum."

According to the new eligibility criteria for uplinking, foreign holding should not exceed 26 per cent of the paid-up equity in a news channel venture, while at least 51 per cent of the stake would have to be held by an Indian shareholder. This excludes the equity held by public sector banks and financial institutions.

The government today also said, so far it had permitted 39 companies to uplink 104 channels from the country, which beam news and current affairs and/or entertainment programmes. Out of these, 12 had varying component of foreign equity.

Information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a written reply to a question in the House today stated, the government has asked Star News, BBC and CNBC-TV18 to reduce foreign equity in their channels by at least 74 per cent and comply with the revised guidelines by March next year for uplinking from the country.

Prasad said that all the existing channels, having foreign equity or foreign direct investment, were required to comply with the new regime within one year after the new guidelines were issued on March 26 this year, putting a cap on holdings.

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