In 2013, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had said that it was in favour of increasing the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) limit in television news channels from the existing 26 per cent to 49 per cent. Last year, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) again asked the telecom regulator and other stakeholders to share their point of view on the issue.
Though the government is yet to take a decision on the matter, the TV media industry largely supports FDI in news channels.
I&B Minister Arun Jaitley, while delivering the first Justice JS Verma Memorial Lecture earlier this month, had also batted for increasing FDI limit in media from the current cap of 26 per cent, saying that when foreign newspapers were anyway available online in India, there was no point opposing the move. He had said, “The debate over whether foreign media should be allowed to establish in the country and the extent of foreign equity has been made irrelevant by technology. Today, sitting here, I can access any newspaper in the world over internet.”
With the minister supporting the increase in FDI cap in news channels, industry leaders are looking for the government’s green signal in the matter.
“I hope that will happen for TV news organisations. There are opponents to FDI, but I agree with Jaitley that the debate has become pointless in the face of technology. Additional FDI will allow greater investments in technology and improve standards of news broadcasting,” said KL Narayan Rao, Executive Vice Chairperson, NDTV Group.
FDI will decide the path for news broadcasters in India. With foreign investors coming in, it will help facilitate a 360-degree coverage around the globe and allow Indian channels to go out.
RK Arora, CEO of News Nation, says it is an ongoing procedure. “Chances are more that the government will increase FDI in media up to 49 per cent. The ministry has accepted the request, only the process is being delayed,” he said.
While the ministry’s nod is awaited since July 2014, the decision got delayed because of the change in guard at the Centre and settling down of several other issues.
“It is difficult to say. But it is again a welcome move from the minister (he had earlier opposed ad cap in news channels). It is something NBA has given its views on, thinking they will do it. It took time because of the change in government,” said Ashok Venkatramani, CEO of MCCS.
Another COO of an English and Hindi news channel said, “The government has increased FDI in defence, insurance and railways, why can’t there be an increase in media? It must not be on the government’s priority list.”
Anurradha Prasad, CEO of BAG Network, said, “We hope that the government will bring FDI this year.”
Nothing can be assured as the matter is going on for seven months, but it is to be seen when that the Modi government will present its first full budget on February 28.
FDI up to 100 per cent is permitted in publishing/ printing scientific and technical magazines, periodicals and journals. In news and current affairs category like newspapers, FDI is allowed up to 26 per cent, subject to certain conditions.