Govt. reviewing 'Business Standard' FDI application: Prasad

NEW DELHI: Kotak Mahindra subsidiary Business Standard Ltd., running the Business Standard financial daily, has applied to the government seeking clearance for foreign investment and the case is under consideration, the government informed parliament today.

On the eve of the dissolution of the 13th Lok Sabha (Lower House), which would pave the way for holding general elections in the country over the next few months, information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told fellow parliamentarians today that nine applications have been received from India entities for foreign investment injections.

Business Standard's proposal, according to the government, is the only one in the news and current affairs category. The remaining ones are for foreign investment in scientific / technical / speciality magazines or journals category where foreign investment up to 100 per cent has been allowed by the government.

The 100 per cent FDI for non-news/technical/niche print products comes with a rider though. The increased capacity for foreign investment can be availed if the whole venture is set up in a SEZ (special economic zone). That means that if somebody wants to bring in foreign investment to set up a printing plant, etc. in SEZ zones in the country for bringing out print products, then only 100 per cent FDI is allowed.

In the news category, the total foreign investment cap is 26 per cent.

Two proposals are from Tata Infomedia (for Tata Press Neighbourhood Guide and Photo Imaging) and one each by Sage Publications (for Insage), TBW Publications (for Intelligent Computing Chip), Birla Sun Life Distribution (for Investime), Sorabjee Automatic Communications (for Autocar India magazine) and IBS Publishing (for International Banking System). The last one, Banyan Netfaqs, has not specified the name of the magazine or journal for which permission for foreign investment has been sought.

In a written reply in Lok Sabha, Prasad said that these proposals would be examined through inter-ministerial consultations.

In another reply, he said total outstanding against defaulting agencies in respect of All India Radio as on 30 June last was Rs 43.7 million, while it was Rs 2197.2 million in the case of Doordarshan. Interestingly, Balaji Telefilms, which owed DD Rs 980 million till 31 March 2003, has cleared all its dues. Probably, that is the reason why Balaji has been allowed to come aboard DD again with a new serial.

The minister informed Parliament that chronic defaulters were not allowed programmes if they failed to clear their dues even after being given reasonable opportunities. There are 179 defaulters in the case of AIR and 109 including the National Film Development Corporation, the Children Film Society, India, and Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (all I&B ministry organisations) in the case of Doordarshan.

Meanwhile, he said that AIR earned a revenue of Rs 669.6 million up to 30 November, while Doordarshan earned Rs 2749.6 million till 30 January for the year 2003-04. In comparison, AIR had earned Rs 1310.5 million and DD had earned Rs 5538.1 million during 2002-03.

He said DD News had emerged as the most watched news channel in the country according to the survey conducted by the Television Audience Measurement (TAM) with an audience share of more than 50 per cent.

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