Editors of various newspaper met the I&B Minister Sushma Swaraj to discuss the matter regarding foreign investment in print media. The meeting was set up in the context of a letter written by a group of editors to Ms Swaraj recently. In the letter, editors had requested the government to allow investment from foreign institutional investors (FIIs) and non-resident Indians (NRIs) in the Indian print media.
They had clarified that such an investment would not mean editorial control or ownership of Indian newspapers by foreign companies. An investment, which is not foreign direct investment (FDI), would not be against the sentiments of the 1955 resolution, the letter suggested.
The letter was forwarded to the Standing Committee of the Parliament for its views on the issue. However, the editors, who met the minister on Monday, did not comment on the conclusion of the meeting.
The editors who met the minister included Mr. Chandan Mitra, editor, Pioneer; Mr. Aroon Purie, editor-in-chief, India Today; Mr. T N Ninan, editor, Business Standard; and Mr. Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief, Indian Express.
Last November, the government had categorically stated that FDI would not be allowed in the Indian print media, scotching speculation on such a move. At that point, the government had said that FDI in print media was not desirable but it was prepared to consider the entry of technical journals in the area of research and development.
While announcing that FDI would not be allowed in Indian media, Ms Swaraj had said that she had consulted Prime Minister A B Vajpayee and the government had decided to continue abiding by the resolution of the 1955 Union Cabinet under Jawaharlal Nehru. According to the resolution, foreign ownership of Indian newspapers was felt to be against the interest of the country.
The government decision followed a mention of FDI in Indian print media at the Economic Editors Conference last year. At the conference, Ms Swaraj had said that any decision on the FDI in print media would be taken keeping in view the major changes in technology since the adoption of the 1955 resolution on the subject. This had led to widespread speculation that the government may be inclined to allow FDI in print media.
Recently, even the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) set the matter at rest by stating that permission for foreign investments of any kind, even other than FDI, was being withdrawn for the print media sector with immediate effect. The RBI clarification came in the wake of the controversy surrounding the Rs 50-crore initial public offer of Mid-Day Multimedia.