FDI cap of 26% for News Aggregators Under Consideration

By Pickle  July 14, 2020

Addressing FICCI Frames 2020 virtually, Amit Khare, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, said the demand of 26 per cent FDI limit for news aggregators is being looked into by the government

In order to provide a level playing field to print and digital media in India, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is considering limiting to 26 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for news aggregators, which have seen accelerated rate of growth driven largely by investments flowing in from countries like China.

Addressing FICCI Frames 2020 virtually , Amit Khare, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, said the demand of 26 percent FDI limit for news aggregators is being looked into by the government even as the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting believes in playing the role of a facilitator and educator rather than a regulator of the Media and Entertainment Industry.

During the discussion, Girish Agarwal, Promoter and Director, Dainik Bhaskar Group, highlighted that print media and news aggregator regulations differ from each other. His remarks were in the context of the 26 percent FDI cap on print media, which didn’t apply to news aggregators.

Girish Agarwal added that these discrepancies must be harmonized to create a level playing field for print media and digital news aggregators, as well as radio and podcasts.

Khare also invited M&E industry representatives to provide more clarity on the definitions of various infrastructures included in the proposal to give infrastructure status to the M&E industry. Khare said the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of Finance and NITI Aayog are agreeable to grant infrastructure status to the broadcasting sector. For this, stakeholders should arrive at a common understanding on what infrastructure will be covered within this definition.

He also acknowledged that digital media in India is growing very fast and changing the consumption pattern and consumer behavior. Citing the example of 11 working groups formed by the PMO to aid convergence between various Ministries to manage the COVID-19 crisis, he said that the I&B Ministry is trying for convergence of regulation of digital content and digital platforms, which currently fall under the purview of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

Technological changes will outpace regulation, so it would be optimal to create a negative list (No Go Zone) of prohibited activities, just like Singapore has done. Outside this list, any platform or medium can function without other regulations.

Khare said, “From the Spartan world of traditional movie marketing, we have now entered a rather sophisticated universe of digital movie making. While looking at different digital mediums is important, one should not forego the importance of personal touch, as the entertainment industry plays on human emotions.”

He added, “Convergence and coordination of various Ministries is mandatory for the smooth functioning of the entertainment industry.”

Stating that there are different regulatory practices for different media such as the Press Council of India for the print media and the Central Board of Film Certification for films, Khare said there has to be a level playing field for all, including OTT platforms such as Netflix and Disney+ Hotstar, which do not come under any regulatory purview as of now.

Khare said OTT is a subject under the Ministry of Electronics, Information and Technology (MEITY), but Information and Broadcasting wants the content part to fall under its purview.

Khare said, “Instead of bringing everyone to the lowest common, the attempt is to have more freedom to all of them. We must try to regulate or rather facilitate the sector. There is definitely a need for a level playing field among the different media.

But, level playing field does not mean getting everyone under very heavy regulatory structures. In fact, the last six years of the present Government has been focused on doing ease of business and having less but more effective regulation.”

Speaking on the challenges being faced by storytellers owing to the fast evolution of technology and digital media, noted Filmmaker Shekhar Kapoor said that both creators and regulators have fallen behind the fast pace of development in the digital media technology, which has thrown a huge challenge for traditional storytellers like filmmakers. He added that the fast emergence of digital platforms keep him on his toes.

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