Notwithstanding the strong leftist reservations, the UPA government is planning to give a go ahead to foreign investors grabbing a stake in the Indian television news arena. The Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy has signed a cabinet note on Tuesday, allowing overseas investments in TV news channels. However, the ministry has set the ceiling for combined FII and FDI investments to 26 per cent.
The FII issue would come into action after a formal cabinet approval before October-end deadline. According to the minister, the government is open about the funding source – it could be FII and FDI together or independently.
The ministry is also considering the case of private FM channels and the unresolved proposal of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) towards implementation of the much-debated Conditional Access System (CAS). While private FM channels are likely to be barred from the proposed revenue sharing arrangement, the cabinet committee is expected to take a final call on the CAS issue by Thursday.
There may be a sigh of relief for the private FM radio stations as the government is likely to prefer cutting down the license fee instead of agreeing to a revenue sharing arrangement. On being plagued by very high license fee structure, private FM stations sought permission from the ministry to migrate to a revenue sharing pattern. Currently, the total revenue collection from the 23-odd stations amounts to Rs 160 crore.