Regulators

FII in news venture: Reddy says studying issue

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NEW DELHI: Information and broadcasting minister Jaipal Reddy, today, said that the government is studying the issue whether foreign financial institutions’ (FIIs) investments in news ventures in print and the electronic medium should be delinked from foreign investment or not.

Speaking at a round-table on 'Opportunities and Challenges: Indian Media Scene Recent Shifts in Paradigm of Media Operations', organized by Centre for Media Studies here, Reddy said the ministry has been receiving requests for excluding FII investments from the foreign direct investment cap of 26 per cent.

“We’ll have to study the matter properly and get feedbacks before taking a final view on the matter, but the government is aware of the issue,” Reddy said. He also sought the views of other participants too on the whole issue of foreign investment in the media.

Listed media companies- Television Eighteen ltd and Zee Telefilms ltd- have been lobbying with the government to look into the issue of FIIs vis-à-vis foreign investments in news ventures for various reasons.

One of the main reasons cited for seeking such a review is that for listed media companies it is difficult to keep track of buying and selling of stocks of a company by FIIs, which is done as part of portfolio investments, and, thus, should not be treated as part of foreign investment.

Dwelling on the issue of a regulator for the broadcast sector and whether the role of the Press Council of India could be enhanced, he said wide divergence exists on these issues and his ministry would be looking for experts’ views on the issues before arriving at a final decision.

In the past, Reddy has made it amply clear that he would prefer a separate regulator for the broadcast and cable sector and that the job being entrusted to Telecom Regulatory Authority was interim in nature.

On the functioning of Indian pubcaster Doordarshan, though the minister pointed out that it continues to be “more balanced” than its competitors, he said that (financial) dependence on the government was coming in the way of DD’s performance. He requested the participants to suggest a model for providing financial independence to Doordarshan.

In his opening remarks, Reddy said that the recent elections have proved that the media has lost touch with the common man and was becoming more and more urban centric and was no more truly representing multi-dimensional social realities and sadly neglecting rural areas.

REDDY NON-COMMITAL ON DD’S DTH FORAYS

The minister, who interacted with the media on the sidelines of the event, was of the opinion that the country needs a technology like (KU-band) DTH, but when asked whether he supports the Indian pubcaster foraying into the DTH segment, Reddy ducked the issue.

Interestingly, the first question on DTH --- do you think the market for DTH in India would open up/is the Indian market ready for DTH? --- came from a correspondent of DD News.

According to Reddy, India could do with a technology like DTH and added that “more players” would be allowed in this sector. If this can be taken as a hint, it may turn out to be good news for Tata-Star combine, which is awaiting a green signal from the I&B ministry on a DTH licence, even though the home ministry has given its clearance.

Still, when indiantelevision.com asked Reddy whether he is in favour of DD foraying into DTH, Reddy came up with a non-committal reply: “I haven’t studied the matter in detail.” As per DD’s announced plans, the DTH service is slated to be launched sometime this month or early July.

Asked about another controversial issue, the printing of International Herald Tribune from India, Reddy gave a stock reply: “We have written to the publishers of IHT in India and Hong Kong… we are waiting and watching.”

However, when pointed out that the Indian editor of the Indian edition of IHT, MJ Akbar, maintains no laws were being broken, Reddy retorted, “It’s their viewpoint.”

“Media is not like any other industry. Media needs to be handled with care,” he added, while dispelling the notion that his relationship with Akbar’s associate, Venkat Ram Reddy (printer and publisher of IHT in India and owner of Deccan Herald newspaper), would not hinder action against them.

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