Increase in FDI cap: a boon or a curse?

MUMBAI: From a recent speech of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Arun Jaitley, speculation was drawn of a probable increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) cap from 26 per cent to 49 per cent. The current government has always been in favour of FDI and on numerous occasions stated FDI as one of the major aspects behind economic growth and reform. 


The government has already taken steps towards increasing FDI in various departments, railway and defense being among them. Hence the speculation of increase in FDI cap in media may soon turn into reality.


Foreign investment will certainly ensure development of channels, more employment and better quality, but will it in return take away editorial freedom? Will Indian media be a victim of foreign dictatorship or will it manage to keep its integrity alive despite foreign investment? Will we have Indian CEOs and reporters after the investment or will strategic affairs slip away from Indian entrepreneurs? A larger democratic debate on the issue is extremely important and took the initiative to find the answers from media stalwarts.


NDTV executive vice chairperson KVL Narayan Rao said, “On this FDI development my comments are personal remarks and not a point of view of the company. I welcome this increase whole heartedly as it will allow more investments and result to better service in terms of producing quality programmes. And the only difference we are having is added investment; we will continue to have Indian editor in chiefs, reporters and video journalists.”  


On the speculated increase in FDI cap to 49 per cent, News Nation network CEO RK Arora said, “Increase in FDI will be extremely favourable, news industry needs to expand and the increase in FDI cap to 49 per cent will be a boon for us. Moreover we see increase in other departments so why not in this industry. If we are to match the standards with international content we need investments from foreign investors.” 


For Arora, there is no harm in increasing FDI to 49 per cent “but the investment should not dictate the strategic affairs, and there shouldn't be any interference in editorial freedom,” he added.


Though the news industry is extremely positive about the possible increase, none of them are ready to compromise with strategic and editorial affairs. 


Focus News managing editor Shailesh Kumar said, “If FDI is increased in news it would be a very good decision as most of the channels are going through a tough time and we need investment from other sources to rejuvenate the industry.”


ABP News CEO Ashok Venkatramani is of the same opinion. “We (ABP News) are in total favour of the increase and I don’t see any possibilities of editorial or strategic affairs getting influenced due to any investment. If this actually happens then we will develop and grow big. Hence I am very happy that the point has been raised. We welcome the increase in FDI cap,” he said.


No second thoughts came from any of channels; while they unanimously welcomed the increase in FDI cap to 49 per cent, they also held a firm grip on not compromising with editorial or strategic affairs. 


Now it remains to be seen how things develop and whether the issue is debated at the top level. Considering the fact that the current government is concentrating on building an open market scenario to ensure economic growth and reform, speculations of a possible increase in FDI cap to 49 per cent can soon be a reality.

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