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Uniform FDI policy for media sought

July 26, 2003 11:36 IST

Indian media companies on Friday called for an uniform and comprehensive policy on print, television and radio, wherein foreign investment was capped at 26 per cent.

The decision was taken by a grouping of Indian media companies, The Indian Media Group, at a meeting to discuss the issue of foreign direct investment in media. They had sought a meeting with the Prime Minister on the issue, sources said.

In a statement, the companies said the government, while allowing FDI in media, must ensure that majority control in media companies should continue to be vested in Indian hands.

"To avoid de facto control by a foreign company, 51 per cent of the rights should vest in one Indian family or group," the statement said.

They also called on the government to institute a regulatory authority to administer media policy and handle all complaints.

The media group pointed out that foreign-held companies should submit to Indian jurisdiction, both in terms of income tax guidelines and other laws. It further said all activities related to broadcasting, whether it is content creation, distribution or overall management, should be vested in one licensed company.

The group also said the government should probe the source of funding of foreign companies in order to detect who was in real control as opposed to proxy control by Indians acting as decoy shareholders for foreigners.

The decision assumes significance in the light of the recent controversy over the shareholding pattern in the Media Content and Communications Services, which is uplinking for Star News from India.

The group also pointed out that there were restrictions on media control by foreigners worldwide and that the test of control should be the sole parameter for FDI in Indian media.

"Since Indian companies are not allowed to distribute their content in foreign countries, why should foreign companies be allowed free and unfettered distribution of their content in India? Any discrimination, if at all, with regard to media ownership privileges and rights should be in favor of Indians," the statement said.

The Indian Media Group is chaired by Subroto Roy of Sahara Group. The other members of the group include Aroon Purie (India Today Group), Prabhu Chawla (India Today), Ashok Dasgupta (Aajkal), Ashwini Minna (Punjab Kesari), Atul Maheshwari (Amar Ujala), G Krishnan (Aaj Tak), I Venkat (Eenadu TV), Subhash Chandra Goel and Jawahar Goel (both Zee), Mahendra Mohan (Dainik Jagran), Manoj Santhalia (New Indian Express Group), Markand Adhikari (SAB TV), Ramesh Chandra Agarwal (Dainik Bhaskar), Shardul Vikram Gupt (Aaj), Vijay Jindal (Times of India), Lalit Suri (Midday-Delhi) and Prannoy Roy (NDTV).

BS Corporate Bureau in New Delhi