GoM set to discuss FDI in DTH Thursday

NEW DELHI: A group of ministers (GoM) is slated to discuss tomorrow foreign direct investment (FDI) in various sectors, including direct to-home television broadcasting venture, and examine whether the existing FDI cap can be reviewed.

According to government sources, the GoM that was supposed to have met in the recent past, but could not because of the absence from town of some key ministers, would have a look at the FDI in various sectors, including whether it makes sense to raise the 20 per cent FDI cap in DTH sector to 49 per cent.

The sources also indicated that though it does not fall technically within the ambit of the GoM, but the group, comprising some of the powerful ministers in the Indian government, may also discuss in the passing the issue of FDI in news channels desirous of uplinking from India --- an issue that will be taken up in entirety by the full Cabinet.

In a related development, the sources also said that the full Cabinet is unlikely to meet before the presentation of the Budget on 28 February to discuss any issues. The Cabinet would meet on Friday morning, but it is highly unlikely that it would take up the uplinking issue for discussion that day.

The GoM comprises ministers of home affairs (who also happen to the deputy Prime Minister), finance, commerce and industry, IT & telecom, amongst others.

The GoMs agenda is to take up the NK Singh panel report that has made various suggestions, including increasing FDI cap in sectors like insurance, civil aviation and DTH. The panel had been constituted last year, at the behest of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, to look at ways to increase the FDI inflow into the country.

But the Union Cabinet has been divided over the Singh panel report. For example, former information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj was staunchly opposed to any review of the existing DTH policy guideline and, during an interaction with journalists late last year, had categorically said her ministry had "rejected" the Singh panel suggestion on DTH.

But with a new I&B minister Ravi Shankar Prasad still trying to find his feet in the ministry and understand the issues related to his ministry, it is yet to be seen the stand his ministry takes on the FDI cap in DTH that is cited as one of the reasons by interested players in delaying business plans.

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