In major decisions concerning the newspaper industry, the Union Cabinet on Thursday decided to permit foreign investment by non-resident Indians, persons of Indian origin, overseas corporate bodies and portfolio investments, besides FDI, in print media, but maintained the ceiling of such investments at 26 per cent.
The Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also decided to allow publication of facsimile editions of foreign newspapers and journals in India, without allowing them access to Indian content or advertisements, S Jaipal Reddy, Information and Broadcasting Minister said.
It also decided to increase the syndication limit of the total printed area from the present 7.5 per cent to 20 per cent under the automatic route.
Reddy said while the FDI investment ceiling of 26 per cent would remain, investments from other sources may be included within the same limit for the news and current affairs segments.
He said these changes would be incorporated through amendments in the PRB Act with a view to give legal backing to these decisions.
Asked why Indian editions of foreign publications were not being allowed, Reddy said "Indian editions are not being permitted at the moment because of apprehensions that the Indian newspaper industry will not be able to withstand the competition".
To a question on how to stop advertisement revenue from going out of the country, he said if Indian companies were already advertising in foreign publications by sending money abroad through foreign exchange, they cannot be disallowed.
The minister refused to answer a specific query on the alleged "flouting of norms" by the International Herald Tribune, which is published in India from Hyderabad.
But he said, "With the changes in the law, the IHT will not have to be closed down, but will have to conform to the new law by registering their company in India".
Asked whether any penalty would be imposed on it for "flouting the norms so far", Reddy said no such penalty was contemplated.
"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 against the publication. But these guidelines did not have adequate legal backing", the I & B Minister said.
To questions on foreign scientific and technical journals being published in India, Reddy said he had permitted more than 100 such journals since he took over. The foreign equity participation in such publications had been raised from 74 to 100 per cent.
The Cabinet did not discuss anything with regard to the electronic media, he said replying to a question. However, he said the ceiling of foreign investment of 26 per cent would remain and the "same will be applicable to the news channels as well".