Wednesday, June 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Print media thrown open to foreign investors
Govt clears 26 pc FDI in news and current affairs
Tribune News Service

Fact File

* 74 pc FDI in medical and technical journals
* Only resident Indians at key editorial posts
* Resident Indians to form 75 pc of Board of Directors
* Only resident Indian to be Managing Director
Govt to verify credentials of foreign investors

New Delhi, June 25
In a major policy decision expected to shape the future course of the Fourth Estate in the country, the Cabinet today cleared the much-debated proposal on the entry of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the print media. The decision allows 26 per cent FDI in case of news and current affairs and 74 per cent FDI in case of non-news and non-current affairs (medical and technical journals).

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan told mediapersons here that the proposal for FDI was approved by the Union Cabinet at its meeting this morning.

“The proposal has been accepted in toto, as suggested by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry,” Mr Mahajan said.

Terming the decision as “logical, timely, unanimous and careful opening up,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj told mediapersons that special safeguards would be put in place to ensure that all editorial and management control remained in Indian hands.

As per the decision, all key editorial posts, including Chief Editor and Resident Editor, would be held by resident Indians. Similarly, three-fourths of the Board of Directors would have to be resident Indians.

Replying to clarifications, Ms Swaraj said the Managing Director would have to be a resident Indian. She added that although no exhaustive list had been drawn out, all key editorial posts would be held by resident Indians.

“As far as news and current affairs are concerned, we have tried to address oft-expressed concerns. We are also taking certain precautions to ensure that management control does not go into foreign hands. Prior permission of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry will be needed if anybody needs to change the shareholding pattern. Prior permission of the ministry will be a must instead of post-disclosure. Besides, the Indian shareholder will have significantly higher shareholding,” she said.

Regarding security considerations, the government would verify the credentials of foreign investors. “The I&B Ministry will hold talks with the Ministry of Home Affairs and other ministries,’’ the minister said.

Replying to a question, Ms Swaraj said she did not agree that the Sangh Parivar was not in favour of the decision. ``People belonging to the Parivar are in the Cabinet and were present at the meeting,’’ she said.

Dismissing questions about a possible link between the publication of Alex Perry’s controversial article in Time magazine and the Cabinet decision, Ms Swaraj shot back, “chotti-chotti stories se government ki policy nahin change hoti.’’ (Such articles cannot influence government’s policy decisions).

Asked if foreign institutional investors (FII’s) would be allowed to pick up shares of print media companies, sources in the I& B Ministry indicated that this would be decided on a case-to-case basis.

The government decision comes in face of rejection of FDI in the print media by a Parliamentary Standing Committee and stiff opposition from several political parties, including some NDA constituents.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology had submitted a report, opposing by a majority vote the entry of FDI in print media. The committee had in February this year rejected the proposal to allow FDI in print media by a 16-10 vote. The Parliamentary Standing Committee had considered the two reports with divergent recommendations earlier this year. One rejected the entry of foreign players, while the other was keen to allow 26 per cent foreign equity with the rider that control should remain in Indian hands.

A vote was taken and 16 members voted against the FDI entry and 10 voted in favour. The final report rejected FDI, but had some dissenting notes from the BJP, DMK and Shiv Sena nominees on the panel.

The Congress, the TDP, the Samata Party, the CPI-M, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal were among those who had opposed the FDI in print media. The Indian Newspaper Society and the Delhi Union of Journalists had also strongly opposed any move to introduce FDI in print media saying it would be against the national interest. FDI had all along been opposed in print media.

In 1954, the first Press Commission warned against foreign entry in print media. A year later, the government decided to bar foreigners from running or investing in newspapers. It also decided that foreign publications could not have Indian editions.

Last year, a Cabinet note proposed part modification of the 1955 Cabinet resolution.


Cong, Left blast decision on FDI
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 25
The Congress and Left parties today opposed the Cabinet decision to permit 26 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the print media.

“The Congress’ position remains unchanged on FDI in print media, which has been reflected in the Cabinet Resolution of 1955. The party has been opposing FDI entry in print media, which is also not favoured by the Standing Committee of Parliament,’’ party spokesman Anand Sharma said.

The Left parties attacked the government for handing over the media to “imperialist” powers, saying they should draw a lesson from the recent episode of Time magazine. CPI General Secretary A.B. Bardhan said the government’s decision to allow 26 per cent FDI in newspapers was against the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee for several decades, including the latest one, the standing Committee of Parliament on Information Technology on Print Media, headed by Mr Somnath Chatterjee.

“Those who are selling away our national assets and interests in the economic and political field, in the foreign affairs and so forth, have now handed over our national identity and dignity even in the respect of the print media,’’ he said.

All-India Forward Bloc General Secretary Debabrat Biswas said the government had “‘misled” the people and asserted that once the foreign players gained a foothold in any media establishment, they would eventually gain complete control in the decision-making body.

CPI(M) General Secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet described the government’s decision as “dangerous,” saying, “It is a dangerous game the government is playing by handing over print media to imperialist forces which have been carrying out malicious propaganda.”

The government, he said, should draw a lesson from Time magazine. He said the decision would be harmful for democracy and serve vested political interests and business interests of multinational companies.


BJP hails move
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 25
The BJP today welcomed the Union Cabinet decision of allowing 26 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the print media and 74 per cent in technical journals but called for creating a regulatory mechanism to ensure the safety of national interests.

BJP Economic Cell convener Jagadish Shettigar said the immediate outcome of the decision would be improvement in the quality of newspapers. The service conditions of the employees were bound to improve, he claimed. 


INS, Editors denounce decision on FDI

New Delhi, June 25
The Indian Newspapers Society (INS) and eminent editors today denounced the government’s decision to throw open the print media to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) saying that the “hasty” decision would compromise national interest and freedom of the Press.

Mr Pratap G. Pawar, President of the INS, the country’s largest newspaper owners’ body, said in a statement here, “it is a matter of surprise and consternation that the government has overlooked the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Print Media headed by Mr Som Nath Chatterjee and allowed the entry of the FDI in print.”

Talking on phone from Chandigarh, Mr Hari Jaisingh, Editor of The Tribune, who is also President of the Editors Guild of India, noted that the matter was too sensitive and critical for such a “casual approach.”

“Apparently it (the government) has played into the hands of certain vested interests without realising the grave implications of such a decision on the freedom of the Press and the spirit of India,’’ Mr Jaisingh said.

The statutory watchdog of the Press, Press Council of India (PCI), the All-India Newspaper Employees Federation, the Indian Journalists Union, the National Union of Journalists, the employee unions of the Press Trust of India and the United News of India and major small and medium newspaper bodies have opposed the government’s move to allow FDI in print media from time to time. UNI

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