Ease up media sector: US to India

NEW DELHI: With the Indian government liberalizing foreign investment norms in quite a few sectors, the US companies are now mounting pressure to further open up the media sector here.


The need of the hour, a US Chamber of Commerce communiqué to the US government says, is that foreign investment norms in the Indian media sector should be further liberalized.

At the moment, in most media segments, including radio FM, print and television broadcasting, existing rules do not allow for a high foreign participation. However, review of some of the present policies is on within the Indian government.

Interestingly, the US Chamber of Commerce letter to under-secretary Larson in the US government has been penned by former McKinsey head Rajat Gupta.



While making a strong case for foreign direct investment (FDI) norms in some sectors of the media to be reviewed, which would, of course, help American companies operating in India, the apex chamber of commerce states there should also be a time-bound action plan too.

A copy of the US Chamber of Commerce letter has been forwarded to various arms of the Indian government by its American counterpart. Especially those agencies that are engaged in promoting ways to increase foreign investment in India, which are still lagging behind neighbour China.

According to documented figures a total of about $3.5 billion in FDI reached India in 2004, while China attracted a whopping $60 billion.

The US government seems to sending feelers to its Indian counterpart that not only FDI norms in the print sector should be liberalized further from the existing (in the news category 26%, while in non-news category up to74%) levels, but also rules relating to broadcasting, especially news ventures, should be looked into.

At various points of time, US company representatives have lobbied with the Indian government to liberalise media sector investment norms, which have been resisted till now or treated cautiously by Indian policy-makers.

For example, a suggestion to up the foreign investment cap in a DTH venture from the existing 20 per cent has been made several times by foreign companies, while foreign newspapers have exhorted the Indian government to allow printing of non-Indian newspapers from India.

A Planning Commission paper on the mid-term appraisal of the ongoing 10th Five-Year Plan recently had listed review of DTH investment norms as one of the areas for discussions. At the last moment, this was struck out of the agenda.

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