FDI in TV news channels
fixed at 26%

Wednesday, 19 March 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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The Indian cabinet Tuesday approved a proposal to allow foreign television news channels to uplink from India, with a rider that overseas investment in such broadcasters should not exceed 26 percent.

NEW DELHI: "Today (Tuesday), the cabinet approved a proposal to allow news channels with 26 percent foreign investment to uplink from India," said Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sushma Swaraj.

"All the existing news channels in which the foreign equity is more than 26 percent will be given one year's time to reduce it to the prescribed limit," Swaraj told a press conference after the cabinet meeting.

Entertainment television channels, however, can continue to be wholly owned by overseas promoters, she added.

The government's decision on the much-awaited proposal will have significant impact on business plans in India of Rupert Murdoch's STAR TV.

STAR TV had requested the government to allow it to uplink the network's 24-hour news channel, slated to go on air April 1, from India.

The request had been pending for quite some time in the absence of any clear official policy on uplinking for television news channels owned by overseas companies.

STAR will do the programming for its news channel in-house after its agreement with New Delhi Television (NDTV), controlled by Prannoy Roy, comes to an end on March 31.

NDTV, currently the exclusive content provider for STAR News, also plans to launch two 24-hour news channels, in Hindi and English, after it ends its ties with STAR TV.

Swaraj said since the foreign holding in the proposed STAR News is 100 percent the broadcaster would have to submit a fresh proposal to the government detailing the new equity structure.

The government decision on STAR TV's proposal was keenly awaited as a host of foreign-owned television channels such as BBC and CNBC have also sought permission for uplinking from India.

Lured by a sharp jump in viewership and prospects of discovering the goldmine created by spiralling advertisement revenues, a host of Indian and overseas media firms are rushing to launch round-the-clock news channels.

While many sectors of the country's nascent electronic media industry have suffered due to the economic slowdown, recent years have been good for the news channels.

India's television market, including advertising revenue and subscription fees, is projected to surge to 720 billion by 2010 from 52 billion now.

Private broadcasters beam programmes through 40,000 cable operators to over 32 million households in India.
Source: IANS

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