DNA | Last Modified - Feb 15, 2011, 03:49 PM IST
New Delhi: A top Information and Broadcasting ministry official said the government is considering allowing foreign firms to own up to 74% of broadcasting companies, along the lines suggested by the telecom regulator seven months ago.
At present, different foreign direct investment (FDI) limits apply for different segments in the broadcasting industry and the regulator had suggested bringing uniformity and raising the limits.
Speaking at the 7th Summit of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce in New Delhi, Arvind Kumar, joint secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting, also said the government will have a relook at allowing private radio channels to broadcast news after it sets up a regulator for the media sector.
In July the Telecom Regulatory Authority had suggested unifying foreign investment limits — currently as low as 20% in some segments — to 74% in most segments, while making an exception at 26% for FM radio and TV news channels.
The broadcast sector consists of channels as well as distribution media such as DTH, cable etc. 100% foreign investment is allowed in non-news channels, while most distribution channels have to have 51% Indian ownership — a reason for the failure of government’s digitisation drive.
Urging companies from the US to invest in the sector once the foreign investment norms are relaxed, Kumar told the Indo-US forum, “The broadcasting sector is expected to require Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 crore for its expansion in the next few years.”
He also said FM licences will be auctioned as before.
Under the current policy, private companies are allowed to broadcast news through their TV channels, but cannot distribute it on radio.
The ministry maintains that radio has greater reach and impact compared with TV, and therefore, allowing private news networks on radio will make it difficult for government to control how events are perceived.