Rupert Murdoch’s STAR wants the government to step up the foreign direct investment (FDI) limit beyond the current 20 per cent in direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting ventures. STAR group CEO Michelle Guthrie and other top officials of the company made this plea during their meeting with information and broadcasting minister S Jaipal Reddy here on Friday, according to sources in the I&B ministry. The government, however, is not in favour of a hike in FDI in DTH, it is learnt.
Worried that their DTH project, in which Tatas have 80 per cent stake, hasn’t been cleared yet, Ms Guthrie came down to make a representation to the minister, sources said. Ms Guthrie, who replaced Mr James Murdoch as the group CEO a few months ago, was keen to know why the Tata-STAR application had not been cleared in so many months, it is learnt. It’s not clear whether she got any assurance from the minister on a speedy clearance.
However, after talking about her pet project, DTH, with the minister, Ms Guthrie refused to comment on any issue, saying that “it was a private meeting”. A few hours later, she and other STAR officials returned to Shastri Bhavan, which houses the I&B ministry, to meet senior officials of the ministry.
Calling it a “courtesy meeting” with the new minister, STAR sources claimed that DTH was not discussed at all. Ms Guthrie and Mr Reddy “exchanged views” on issues of common interest, according to company sources.
A source in the I&B ministry said that the STAR-Tata application is still being studied. As is known, it has already got clearances from the various ministries including home. On whether there was a possibility of this DTH application being put on hold by the I&B ministry, the source said: “There’s no prejudice against this project.” Also, STAR’S tieup with such a major Indian business house such as Tatas for DTH makes it a credible venture, he indicated.