M A I N   N E W S

Facsimile editions of foreign dailies okayed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 16
While retaining the foreign direct investment ceiling of 26 per cent, the Manmohan Singh government today took key decisions pertaining to the newspaper industry in this country whereby investments by NRIs, overseas Corporate Bodies, Persons of Indian Origin and portfolio investments by recognised Foreign Institutional Investors (FII) have been permitted in the print media.

At its meeting here, the Union Cabinet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the chair allowed facsimile edition of foreign newspapers and periodicals subject to four specific conditions. The rationale behind this is to accord Indians the right to access information internationally which they are getting through the internet and foreign news channels.

These are: (i) the facsimile edition can be brought out by an Indian entity with or without FDI and also by foreign companies owning the original newspaper provided they get incorporated and registered in this country under the Companies Act of 1956 coupled with suitable safeguards to ensure that they comply with the Indian Laws; (ii) the facsimile edition is brought out with the approval of the regulatory authority of the country of origin and is a standard publication in that country without being specially designed for Indian readers; (iii) the existing policy disallowing publication of Indian editions of foreign newspapers is being continued; and (iv) prior permission from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting must be obtained for publication of facsimile editions.

The Cabinet made no change in the existing policy disallowing publication of Indian editions of foreign newspapers.

Simultaneously, the government raised to 20 per cent the present syndication limit of 7.5 per cent of the total printed area under the automatic route. Cases above the 20 per cent limit will continue to be considered by the Ministry of I & B on a case by case basis.

Briefing mediapersons, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Jaipal Reddy said as there is no change in the investment ceiling of 26 per cent, investment from other sources can be included within this ceiling for the news and current affairs segment.

These changes will be incorporated through amendments in the PRB Act for giving legal backing to the decisions taken by the Cabinet.

The Minister clarified that the restriction on the publication of facsimile editions of foreign newspapers and periodicals did not imply that Indian advertisements or content existing in the original edition will not be allowed. The facsimile editions of foreign dailies and periodicals can be brought out subject to certain conditions that it can be published by an Indian entity with or without FDI.

"In the light of these changes, we are not going to permit Indian editions of foreign newspapers and magazines as has been the policy all along," Mr Reddy maintained.

The conditions for facsimile editions of foreign publications requires approval by the regulatory authority of the country of origin to ensure that it is a standard publication in its home country and not specially designed for Indian readers. These facsimile editions will not carry any advertisements aimed at Indian readers in any form. Prior permission from the Ministry of I & B must be obtained for publication.

To a pointed question why Indian editions of foreign publications are not being allowed, Mr Reddy said it is because of "some apprehension that the Indian newspaper industry will not be able to withstand the competition."

On stopping ad revenue from going out of the country, the Minister observed that if Indian companies were already advertising in foreign publications by sending money abroad through foreign exchange, they cannot be disallowed.

He parried a question about the alleged flouting of norms by the International Herald Tribune which is published in this country from Hyderabad.

At the same time, Mr Reddy noted that with the proposed changes in the law, the IHT will not have to close down. It will have to conform to the new law by registering their company in India. Asked if any penalty was sought to be imposed on the IHT, the minister replied in the negative.

"We do not make policies with any particular newspaper in mind. Policy decisions are taken in larger interest. In the process some stand to gain while some others might lose. In the case of the IHT, some guidelines were issues but these lacked legal backing."

On foreign scientific and technical journals being published in this country, Mr Reddy pointed out that he had permitted more than 100 such journals since he took over as the Minister for I & B. The foreign equity participation in such publications has been raised from 74 per cent to 100 per cent.

The Cabinet did not discuss anything with regard to the electronic media. The ceiling of 26 per cent will be applicable to the news channels as well, Mr Reddy added.

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