Television

Cabinet grants 6-month extn on uplink norms

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NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Government today gave another extension of six months to news and current affairs channels to reduce foreign holding to 26 per cent as required by policy on uplinking.

"The policy requires the news channels to adhere to a cap of 26 per cent of FDI and the Indian entity to have not less than 51 per cent. But for a variety of reasons, many existing news channels have not been able to conform to this changed system," information and broadcasting minister Jaipal Reddy told reporters after a Cabinet meeting here.

It is expected that by the time the government comes out with a comprehensive policy on news channels' shareholding patterns in six months time, the I&B ministry would have also finalised the proposed uplink and downlink norms.

Reddy said the Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, "gave its last extension of six months from now (till September, 2005)" to show that its structural equity conforms to this regime. "There will be no further extensions," he assured.

According to him, the companies operating such channels were earlier required to conform to the revised guidelines by March 2004, that is, to restructure their equity to conform to these guidelines.

Interestingly, Zee News is still to restructure itself as being part of the Subhash Chandra-promoted Zee Telefilms makes it have foreign/NRI shareholding that is way above the permissible limit. A senior executive of the network admitted that the company is still in the process of restructuring the shareholding pattern.

The decision for extension of the deadline will give time to the ministry to finalise the proposal to review the uplinking guidelines, Reddy added. But this line has been given every time, three to be precise, an extension has been okayed by the Cabinet.

Meanwhile, Indiantelevision.com's information is that the government may take a decision on allowing foreign institutional investors (FIIs) having a holding in news channel ventures later this month, which could pave the way for issuing a clarification on the issue relating to uplinking.

Sometime back, Reddy had told journalists during an informal meeting that this ministry has agreed to allow FII investments in news channels as long as it was kept within the total foreign holding cap. However, this decision too needs a Cabinet okay.

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