Star uplink case to go before cabinet soon, says Prasad

NEW DELHI: The Rupert Murdoch-controlled Star can breathe easy a bit. The information and broadcasting ministry proposes to take the issue of uplinking of news channels from India and their shareholding pattern to the cabinet "very soon". It can happen as soon as later this week when a cabinet meeting has been tentatively scheduled.

"Very soon," information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told when asked when does he propose to take the Star News (now referred to as the uplinking issue in government circles) proposal to uplink from India to the cabinet.

Prasad, who participated in a meeting of the Ficci entertainment committee, today said on the sidelines that the background work on the cabinet note circulated to various ministries and government organisations (during his predecessor's tenure) has been completed. He added that he would strive to take it to the cabinet as soon as possible and settle the issue, preferably in the next cabinet meet.

Earlier Prasad had told, during his first media interview, that the issue of Star News was "commanding" his attention though he had not specified a time frame on taking the matter to the cabinet.

When asked as to what would be the likely view of the I&B ministry on the issue, Prasad said that it was only for the cabinet's ears. "I cannot make everything public at this juncture and to the media," he countered when further quizzed on the issue.

Star News Broadcasting, a Virgin Island based company, had sought government permission to uplink from India news and current affairs content meant to be aired on Star News channel after Star takes full control of it from 1 April 2003,subsequent to the five-year content contract with NDTV coming to an end on 31 March.

Former I&B minister Sushma Swaraj had said that she would like to have the guidance of the Cabinet on the issue as it s 'first-of-its-kind' case where a foreign-owned news channel was seeking permission to disseminate news and current affairs programming to primarily Indian audiences and that it also amounted to 100 per cent FDI (foreign direct investment).

The Indian government's rules and regulations cap FDI at 26 per cent in the news category in the print medium, while allowing up to 74 per cent FDI in non-news and technical category of the print medium.

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