Comply with FDI ceiling, govt. tells digital news firms

Prakash Javadekar  

Four days after it brought digital news portals and videostreaming platforms like Netflix under its jurisdiction, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued a detailed notification asking the companies to comply with the 26% cap on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) sanctioned last year.

The notification reiterates the Cabinet decision of August last year, imposing a 26% cap on FDI under government route for uploading/streaming of news and current affairs through digital media.

The only major departure is that now even the companies that have investment below the 26% cap have to intimate the Ministry about the shareholding pattern along with the ‘names and address of its directors/shareholders’. These details have to be submitted within a month’s time.

The firms who have more than 26% of FDI have been instructed to take steps to bring down the figure before October 15, 2021.

“This serves no purpose. The government is just trying to get more and more levers with which to manipulate the digital media. The spate of notifications that you see are not isolated; it clearly indicates that they want to exert control and this will continue,” said Abhinandan Sekhri, co-founder of news portal News Laundry . Mr Sekhri is also the general secretary of Digipub News India Foundation, an umbrella body of 11 digital news organisations.

Speaking at a webinar organised by the Press Council of India on the occasion of National Press Day, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said that a free press was critical to democracy.

Regulation for TV

“Freedom of press is the soul of democracy. Freedom of press is very important but any freedom comes with responsibility. So, there has to be a responsible freedom and no sensationalism by the press,” he said in a video message.

Mr. Javadekar spoke about the need for a regulatory body for TV channels. The Ministry was mulling over bringing a code of conduct for them, he stated.