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Govt grapples with news FDI

New Delhi, Nov. 13: The Union information and broadcasting ministry is still struggling with the drafting of guidelines for foreign direct investment in the print news despite the Cabinet changing its policy five months ago.

The ministry today notified the guidelines governing FDI in the non-news, non-current affairs. Sources in the ministry said the guidelines for FDI in the print news “should” be out by the end of the month.

It is likely that the guidelines for FDI in the print news will be issued subsequently with the announcement of the government policy on allowing foreign-owned news channels to uplink from within Indian territory.

The sources said information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj was “treading carefully” to ensure that she did not provoke allegations of favouring one media over another.

Such loud thinking indicates that the ministry may favour restricting the equity cap on foreign-owned news channels to uplink from India at 26 per cent. FDI in the print news has also been restricted to 26 per cent while that for the non-news, non-current affairs publications is 74 per cent.

The guidelines issued today have laid down that approvals for FDI in non-news, non-current affairs publications will not be automatic but will be given on a case-by-case basis. Each application will be considered by the ministry. The ministry will consult other relevant ministries before approval is granted under the categories of scientific, technical or speciality journals.

All applicants will have to comply with the Press and Registration of Books Act. The ministry will seek an undertaking from the applicants that the character of the journal/magazine will not be changed after publication. The ministry will also reserve the right to revoke permission.

Applicants who will seek permits for both FDI and foreign institutional investment, will have to get clearances from the FIPB and the Reserve Bank of India after a no-objection certificate from the information ministry.

An application will have to be made to the ministry in the prescribed format to determine the nature of the contents of the publication and an application fee of Rs 5,000 deposited through a demand draft.

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