Foreign investment in print media a possibility

NEW DELHI, JULY 6. After rejecting the entry of foreign print media, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting is now exploring the possibility of a consensus - both political and within the industry - on the issue of allowing the print media access to capital from Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs), Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Overseas Corporate Bodies (OCBs).

At a briefing here today, the I&B Minister, Ms. Sushma Swaraj, said this was being attempted after the Ministry received a proposal from five editors/publishers suggesting that the issue of foreign investment in print media be delinked from the question of foreign media entry.

The Ministry, according to Ms. Swaraj, had decided to refer the suggestion to the Law Ministry. The five editors/publishers felt that investment in print media by FIIs, NRIs or OCBs would not dilute the control of the media in any way, and ``certainly not bring in foreign media''.

The proposal has been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Information Technology to see if a political consensus can be built. Pointing out that political and industry consensus had always evaded any suggestion of foreign involvement in the print media, Ms. Swaraj said she had asked the five editors/publishers to put their suggestions before the industry to see if a consensus could be arrived at within the fraternity.

Moving on to other subjects, Ms. Swaraj said it had been decided to suggest to the Group of Ministers - scheduled to meet on July 11 to finalise the Draft Communications Convergence Bill, 2000 - that content be kept out of the purview of the proposed Communications Commission of India.

About the vacancies in the Prasar Bharati Board, the Minister said she had written to the Selection Committee - headed by the Vice-President, Mr. Krishan Kant - about another vacancy following the resignation of Dr. Abid Hussain. Pointing out that the Ministry had accepted his resignation, the Minister said, ``I used Dr. Hussain's resignation as an opportunity to write to the Selection Committee and remind it of the vacancies within the Board.''