The cabinet today decided to constitute a group of ministers (GoM) to review the government’s print media policies, including foreign direct investment (FDI).
The policies that the GoM would review are the previous government’s decision to allow 26 per cent FDI in news and current affairs publications and 74 per cent FDI in non-news, scientific, technical and specialty magazines.
“The cabinet has decided to appoint a GoM to look at the violations of the existing policies and decisions taken by the earlier government as well as the emerging scenario to take a comprehensive view of the print media sector,” said Information and Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy after the cabinet meeting.
“It will review the decisions by the earlier government with a view to plug the loopholes,” he added.
Reddy said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would take a decision about the composition of the GoM in the next few days.
The GoM will also take a re-look at the content syndication rules, which permit Indian newspapers to source up to 7.5 per cent content from their international counterparts.
Reddy said the cabinet considered amendments to certain sections of the Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act, 1867, and also took note of the resolution adopted by the cabinet in 1955 which did not permit publication of foreign magazines and newspapers in India.
Sources said a section of cabinet ministers argued for lowering the FDI cap in the print media sector. “The issue was discussed for 10 minutes. The matter could not be resolved and was referred to the GoM,” the source said.
The decision to set up the GoM has been prompted by the publishing of the International Herald Tribune in India by the Hyderabad-based Midram Publications.
Reddy said the information and broadcasting ministry had wanted a set of amendments to the PRB Act but the cabinet wanted a wider consultations on the issue.
“The cabinet, however, decided to take a comprehensive view of the entire print media sector and set up the GoM not only to go into the violations that may occur, but also to look at the entire policy paradigm,” Reddy said.
The decision to allow FDI in the print media was taken by the Vajpayee government in 2002. Subsequently, two newspapers and about 17 Indian editions of foreign non-news and non-current affairs magazines were cleared by the government.
The Centre also cleared 13 foreign investments by international publications in various Indian non-news and current affairs publications.
The information and broadcasting ministry wanted to amend the PRB Act to completely stop the printing of foreign titles in India. The ministry also wanted to strengthen the syndication rules to regulate the use of foreign content in Indian newspapers.
"The government wants to stop the misuse of syndication rules by certain publications. The GoM will take a comprehensive look at the policies," said Reddy.
The Left has already agreed to 49 per cent FDI in private domestic airlines. The matter was slated for clearance at the cabinet meeting today.
However, in the absence of Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, who is in Kolkata in connection with the cricket board elections, the matter was postponed.