FDI cap on DTH to stay: Prasad

NEW DELHI: Cold water has been poured over the expectations of Star and Zee-ASC combine if they thought the government would move away from its promised common minimum programme, announced at the beginning, and relax the foreign investment cap in DTH venture from the existing 20 per cent.

This was confirmed by information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in a written reply to his fellow parliamentarians in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) today.

After the announcement came in Parliament, a senior I&B ministry official told indiantelevision.com that though the NK Singh panel had suggested raising the FDI cap to 49 per cent in DTH ventures and some of the suggestions were discussed by a group of ministers last week," DTH was never part of that day's agenda."

"We also feel that the minister is not in any hurry to overturn any decision or stand taken by his predecessor," the official said.

Swaraj had, in fact, told journalists late last year that under her the I&B ministry had rejected the Singh panel recommendation on DTH.

On whether government proposes to put in place a regulatory system to ensure licence for DTH is granted to a foreign company which keeps an Indian company as a dummy, Prasad said I&B ministry regulates grant of licence for these services.

Still, it is also a fact that the files relating to permission sought by Space TV and ASC Enterprises Ltd for DTH licences have been lying with Prasad for the last fortnight waiting for a stand to be taken by him on the issue.

"It is in fact quite frustrating to know that the files are with the minister and no decision is being taken on DTH," a senior executive of one of the applicant companies said.

As per existing guidelines, total foreign investment including FDI/Non-resident Indian/Overseas Corporate Bodies/Foreign Institutional Investors in DTH broadcasting shall not exceed 49 per cent within which the FDI component shall not exceed 20 per cent.

Meanwhile, Prasad also informed the house that the government was considering a proposal to review the present norms permitting foreign-owned news channels to uplink from India.

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