"Indian editions (of foreign newspapers) have not been permitted because of apprehensions that the Indian newspaper industry will not be able to withstand the competition."
New Delhi, June 16
THE Union Cabinet today further liberalised the print media policy by allowing non-resident Indians, overseas corporate bodies, persons of Indian origin and portfolio investments by foreign institutional investors in news and current affairs publications.
However, all this would be permitted within the existing 26 per cent foreign investment cap.
Briefing newspersons after the meeting, the Information and Broadcasting Minister, Mr S. Jaipal Reddy, said this new provision of allowing FIIs and other investments within the 26 per cent overall limit would also be extended to television news channels uplinking from India. Though this specific proposal was not discussed by the Cabinet, the Ministry had approved it, Mr Reddy clarified.
The Cabinet also decided to permit publication of facsimile editions of foreign newspapers and journals. However, the Government has stipulated that these editions would not be allowed to carry content or advertisements aimed at Indian readers.
It was decided that facsimile editions could be brought out either by an Indian entity, with or without FDI, or even by foreign companies owning the original newspaper, provided they were incorporated and registered in India under the Companies Act, 1956.
Explaining the rationale for allowing facsimile edition, Mr Reddy said the newspapers were already available on the Internet and were being sold at a premium to cover the postage.
The facsimile edition can be brought out with the approval of the regulatory authority of the country of origin if it is a standard publication there. Also, prior permission from the I&B Ministry would have to be obtained for publication of facsimile editions.
But the existing policy of disallowing publication of Indian editions of foreign newspapers would continue. "Indian editions have not been permitted because of apprehensions that the Indian newspaper industry will not be able to withstand the competition."
The Government has also increased the syndication limit under the automatic route from the present 7.5 per cent of the total printed area to 20 per cent. "Cases above the 20 per cent limit may continue to be considered by the I&B Ministry on a case-by-case basis," the rules said.
Mr Reddy said, "These changes would be incorporated through amendments in the Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act with a view to giving a legal backing to these decisions."
The Government is unlikely to take action against International Herald Tribune (IHT). "With the changes in the law, IHT will not have to be closed down, but will have to conform to the new rules by registering the company in India. No penalty is contemplated against the company for flouting norms.
"We do not make policies keeping a particular newspaper in view. We take policy decisions in larger interests. In the process, some stand to gain, some others stand to lose. In the case of IHT, we had guidelines, but these did not have adequate legal backing," he added.