Broadcasters discuss investment caps with Reddy

NEW DELHI: The present Congress-led coalition Indian government has an "open mind" on news on FM radio and foreign investment cap in news and DTH ventures. However, it is not in a hurry to revisit any existing guidelines on these issues.

This was the broad message that information and broadcasting minister S Jaipal Reddy conveyed to the members of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), an apex body of broadcasting companies operating in India, during an informal interaction over dinner here yesterday.

Though the issue of foreign investment cap in direct-to-home (DTH) and news ventures were brought up by some members of the IBF, which is a divided house on these two matters, at least, Reddy made it clear that in matters relating to media laws, India need not be guided by examples of any particular country.

"We have an open mind (on issues relating to foreign investment caps in media). However, if someone has any particular suggestion in this regard, he is welcome to submit them to the ministry," Reddy is said to have conveyed to IBF members.

The minister, according to some of those present during the dinner, also directed one of his bureaucrats to compile - how many times such an exercise would be undertaken? - media ownership and cross-service laws of various countries like the UK, US, Australia and Japan so that India can have the best of the world.

Those who were present at the dinner included I&B ministry officials, senior representatives of Doordarshan, All India Radio, Sahara TV, Star India, Zee Telefilms, Enadu and IBF executives. Interestingly, Star News president Ravina Raj Kohli, who is said to have put in her papers, according to

reports in a certain section of the media, was also in attendance.

Another issue that was brought up by IBF members during the interaction with the I&B minister, who still seems to be in a "learning" mode, was that of service tax and how a certain leading FMCG company has been steadfastly resisting inclusion of service tax in the release order for advertisements.

Reddy's intervention was also sought in the matter of high customs duty on import of broadcast equipment, which, according to some, adds to the high investment levels in the broadcast and cable industry.

It was also pointed out to the minister that the difference in customs duties in the telecom and broadcast sectors was sizeable and that both the sectors should be brought at par. Especially when broadcast and cable services have been redesignated as telecom services after a notification to this effect was issued by the previous government while making Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) the sector regulator.

At present, while imports of telecom equipment attract customs duty of around 5 per cent, those for the broadcasting sector range between 20-30 per cent.

Reddy did not make promises, but said he would discuss these taxation issues with his "friend (PC) Chidambaram," the finance minister.

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