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Govt moving ahead on proposal of hiking FDI in news, says Rathore

NEW DELHI: There is some good news for foreign media companies that are interested in entering news business in India. The Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is moving forward on the issue of hiking the foreign direct investment (FDI) limit in news and current affairs channels.

While refusing to give any time frame within which the government would bring about the change in FDI limit, Minister of State for Information & Broadcasting Col Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore has said that the government has started moving in that direction.

Rajyavardhan Rathore“Can’t really say that we are going to make it happen in a given timeframe, but the very fact that we have started thinking about it means we have started moving ahead with it,” Rathore told the captains of M&E industry at the CII Big Picture Summit 2015.

Media reports had earlier stated that an inter-ministerial committee is considering the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) proposal to increase FDI limit in broadcast carriage and content services, news and current affairs TV channels and FM radio services.

In its recommendations on 22 August 2013, the authority had said that FDI limit should be enhanced to 100 per cent from 74 per cent in the broadcast carriage services like cable TV, DTH, IPTV, mobile TV, HITS and teleport, with up to 49 per cent FDI under automatic route and beyond 49 per cent with prior approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB).

It had also recommended enhancing FDI limit to 49 per cent from 26 per cent for uplinking of news and current affairs TV channels and FM radio services while maintaining status quo for uplinking of non-news and current affairs TV channels and downlinking of TV channels. It was also recommended that FDI should only be allowed with prior approval of the FIPB.

Rathore said that the investments in news channels are essential for raising the quality of journalism. Currently, the news broadcasters are not able to make investments in producing quality content since the business model is flawed which makes news business less favourable in the eyes of the investors.

“Unfortunately, because of that there is not much investment happening in the training of the journalist. The quality of the journalist, the questions, the news that is being presented and we as a growing nation, we need to have journalists as the fourth pillar of democracy. We need to have very good quality news. Therefore, there is need to investment in the quality of journalism itself,” Rathore said.

He also said that government policies are changing with changing times while pointing out to the government’s decision to allow private FM radio stations to run news sourced from All Indian Radio (AIR). “There was a time when there was no news on private radio but now with Phase III expansion, this has changed,” he said.

He also said that the government was willing to partner the industry to set up an Institute of Excellence for Gaming & Animation.

“The idea was under discussion in view of the skill potential in the M&E sector where the youth workforce could act as a force multiplier. The proposed joint initiative could lead to the convergence of content, skill and technology in the M&E domain,” he said.

Regarding the various initiatives undertaken by the government across the M&E sector, the minister said that the potential of India as film shooting destination was part of the proactive initiative in the policy domain.

The ministry, he stated, was pursuing the idea of funding Indian films in collaboration with the industry to participate in the prestigious international awards such as the Oscars and Cannes. This was being noted keeping in mind the vision of the Prime Minister to project the soft power potential of the country.

In this context, the ministry also proposed to set up NFDC as a single-window institution for all film shooting permissions in India. The minister called upon the industry to undertake ‘out-of–the-box solutions’ to promote cinema through small theatres and mobile theatres in rural areas to enhance the reach of cinema.

He also called upon the industry to reinforce campaigns and networking to project the importance of India’s soft power across the globe.

He emphasised that the future road map of the M&E sector depends on technology, creativity and vision to tap resources for optimal utilisation. The government’s policy would incorporate the same keeping in mind the contemporary M&E domain framework.

Quoting some of the initiatives of the ministry, Col Rathore reiterated the success of FM Phase III auctions in light of the transparent process adopted, measures being put in place to fast-track digitisation and the emphasis of the government on social media and digital advertising to ensure enhanced presence of government initiatives.

MIB special secretary JS Mathur said that the M&E landscape was undergoing transformative changes and this was a challenge for all stakeholders concerned. Mathur underlined the initiatives taken by the government for providing an enabling environment for the growth of the sector.

He also said that the rapidly changing technology provides great opportunities for the players in the sector, especially content developers and creators.