At a time when the government is set to allow foreign institutional investors (FII) to invest in news channels, it is likely to refer the matter of a similar arrangement for the print media to the Group of Ministers (GoM) to be constituted soon to review FDI guidelines for the print media.
Currently, 26 per cent FDI is allowed in both the print and electronic media, but FII investment is not allowed in either of them. If FII investment is allowed, it will be part of the 26 per cent foreign investment cap.
Highly placed sources in the I&B Ministry said once FII investment was allowed in the electronic media — the issue is expected to come up before the Cabinet soon — it would have to be permitted in print too. The sources said the final decision would, however, have to be taken by the GoM.
The government is keen to bring parity in FDI guidelines for the electronic and print media. Top ministry officials have, however, categorically ruled out raising the FDI limit in either the print or electronic media.
Though the publication of the International Herald Tribune from Hyderabad is being seen as the immediate provocation for the setting up of the GoM, the I&B Ministry was keen on forming the group even before the controversy broke out.
There is a view within the ministry that the NDA overnment had perhaps "hurriedly drafted" the FDI guidelines for the electronic and print media. The GoM will carry out a comprehensive review to correct the resultant discrepancies.
The I&B Ministry also wants the mandate of the GoM to be widened to study some other key issues.