The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt clears air on media control

New Delhi, May 9: Nearly all sectors of the electronic media have been thrown open to foreign investment but none can be controlled by overseas bodies, the Union minister of state for information and broadcasting said today.

Giving an overview of changes in media policy in the Rajya Sabha today, Ravi Shankar Prasad made a statement on a calling-attention motion over concerns regarding the entry of foreign companies in the electronic media.

Prasad said that companies seeking permission to uplink for news and current affairs channels have been asked to make fresh applications in accordance with revised guidelines announced in March.

The guidelines permit foreign equity holding up to 26 per cent.

Under the current policy, 31 companies have been permitted to uplink 88 channels, 20 companies have been permitted to set up 22 teleports and a news agency has been permitted uplinking for news gathering and distribution.

Significantly, the main changes in the policies for the electronic media were prompted by STAR Television’s application for permission to uplink. STAR has also entered the radio sector with FM channels.

Prasad said that in FM broadcasting, 20 per cent portfolio investment by non-resident Indians, foreign institutional investors and persons of Indian origin have been permitted. Foreign direct investment has not been permitted in FM.

Since the policy on FM radio was put in place, 14 private FM stations have gone on air in Calcutta, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai. In the non-metros, eight private FM stations are on air.

The minister said the policy on Direct to Home (DTH) broadcasting was announced in November 2000. (STAR was known to be interested in DTH service at the time.)

For DTH services, the government has allowed up to 49 per cent overseas investments. Since the policy was made, there have been three applications — from Space TV Private Limited, ASC Enterprises Limited and Essel Shyam Communication Ltd — “which are under process”.

Prasad said for cable operations, DTH, FM broadcasting and uplinking, “adequate safeguards were in place”.

In nearly all the sectors touched upon by the minister, these safeguards are in the shape of rules that make it mandatory for majority stakes to be held by Indians and controlling authority vested with them.

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