FDI has been allowed into the print media. One is tempted to crow a little. Hundred and one days back, we sensed its coming. We said so in our story titled "INS considering support to FDI in Print". Our intuition was affirmed when about one thousand of you delivered an emphatic yes-vote to FDI in our poll on this issue. 'Smug satisfaction' you might say. What the heck!
But no record of this saga can be called complete unless it records the nautanki that went on, vainly, on the front pages of some of the leading dailies. Even yesterday, both HT and ToI had made, it now seems, a last ditch effort to raise the bogey of an imminent disaster, should the FDI be allowed. In an attempt at projecting a "unique unanimity", ToI also managed a line-up of strange bedfellows. From RSS to CPI, they had someone or the other obliging them by parroting the identical vocabulary, being recycled for the past ten years. The campaign to stall FDI looked like a tragic-comedy when it began ten years ago. Yesterday, in its culmination, it had degenerated into a farce. Now that the inevitable has happened, it will be interesting to watch what the likes of Hindu, ToI and HT might do. It wouldn't be surprising if they turn out to be the earliest of the lot to welcome the firangi moolah. No! This is not being facetious. We are talking about hard-nosed businessmen.
So, how is it going to change our lives, if that is what it might?
To start with, some of the live-in relationships will turn into formal marriages. They have been just waiting for this decision. The Business Standard and Financial Times deal has already been announced. Wonder what will happen to the 'Financial Times' we sometimes see which comes riding with the ToI.
Some of the cash starved, tottering-on-the-brink media-businesses will start scouting for a lucrative exit. A former firebrand daily, with a reputation for making and unmaking governments, falls in that category. The heir who inherited the mantle from the daily's legendary founder has already run it aground as an absentee landlord.
Some big and savvy publishers will access resources in lieu of equity to grow faster. A "multimedia" group based in Mumbai and a Magazine behemoth turned diversified Media group will cash-in on high valuations to generate wealth as well as fuel growth.
International Media businessmen who have struck gold in TV will evaluate opportunities in print too. It will not only help them leverage their existing infrastructure for more ad-revenues but also help them consolidate their presence in the market. One such immensely successful group has already entered radio, although in a round about manner. They own dailies and periodicals too around the world.
Language media may not be such a big attraction for the offshore moneybags in the immediate future, but who knows!
Presently, very few media businesses exist on the bourses. Chances are that the corporatisation of media will receive a boost and a lot more media-shares might begin to quote.
International Trade and technical journals are likely to be more readily available over a period.
Investments in technology and infrastructure should flow-in.
Marketplace will turn more competitive and aggressive.
Pressure on the availability of trained Human resource will mount leading to higher wages and mobility.
Bottom-line, this is yet another, even if a tentative-step-masquerading-as-a-giant-leap forward, towards unshackling the potential of the print-media business in India. It was unfair to see it being singled out all this while for a forced abstinence when all other media-segments were having a rocking time.