New Delhi, Dec. 23: Union minister for information and broadcasting Sushma Swaraj has given the Cabinet four options, one of which will determine the government policy on allowing foreign-owned television channels to uplink from the country.
This follows Sushma’s decision to give a special briefing to the Cabinet after her ministry received a proposal from STAR News requesting permission to uplink for its news channel that is slated to be launched by April 2003.
The minister had said that as the request was unique, because no other news channel that is fully foreign-owned was so far uplinking from the country, she wanted to apprise the Cabinet of the matter.
A note sent by her ministry to the ministries of defence, external affairs, finance and home says the government can consider granting permissions to foreign channels on the basis of its policy for allowing foreign direct investment in the print media.
The Centre this year decided to allow FDI in the news and current affairs print media up to 26 per cent.
The note also says another option — allowing permission to channels with up to 49 per cent foreign equity can be comparable to the existing policy of allowing FDI up to 49 per cent in the cable and direct-to-home companies.
A third option given by the minister was to bar foreign companies from uplinking altogether and the fourth was to maintain status quo.
Since there is nothing in the existing guidelines on uplinking that debars foreign channels from seeking permission, this would mean that the Centre does not feel STAR’s application merits a new policy statement.
In any case, industry sources said the Centre’s attitude on liberalising in the television sector “has been industry-friendly” and there is “no reason for nervousness that things might change”.
More than 70 television channels uplink from the country. Some of these — such as Zee Television and NDTV — have foreign-held equity stakes though they are not fully foreign owned.