New Delhi: India announced significant relaxation in media norms for foreign publications on Wednesday, allowing foreign newspapers to publish facsimile editions. It also notified an earlier announcement on allowing foreign firms to invest up to 26% in companies that would publish the Indian editions of foreign news and current affairs magazines.
The move could help those newspapers that wish to publish their foreign editions in India and makes it possible for media firms here that have already announced partnerships to publish local editions of magazines such as Fortune and Forbes. “Some of the global newspapers such as the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), and the International Herald Tribune (IHT) will now look at starting Indian operations on their own,” said Farokh Balsara, national sector leader, media and entertainment, Ernst and Young India, an audit and consulting firm.
The announcement made by the ministry of commerce and industry on Wednesday allows 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) with prior government approval for the publication of the facsimile editions, provided the investment is made by the owner of the original newspaper. The policy also specifies that the publication can be undertaken only if the firm has set up its India office under the provisions of the Companies Act, 1956. IHT already publishes its facsimile edition through Hyderabad-based media firm Deccan Chronicle Holdings Ltd. Its managing director P.K. Iyer said it was “for IHT to decide” if it wanted an independent presence here and that “there has been no communication in this regard”.
WSJ, which has an exclusive content partnership with Mint, published by HT Media Ltd, has already sought the government’s approval for publishing its facsimile edition. If the newspaper gets the approval, its parent firm News Corp. will be allowed to publish it independently instead of through a joint venture or alliance. Suman Dubey, consultant for Dow Jones in India and also the head of WSJ’s facsimile edition, said: “We can comment on our plans only after we have heard from the government on our application.”
The policy also reiterates that 26% foreign investment will be allowed in firms that publish the Indian editions of foreign news and current affairs magazines. “The latest change in policy is an extremely positive step,” said Suprio Guha Thakurta, managing director, Economist Group India. “However, the policy needs to clarify whether this will be applicable for a facsimile edition of a weekly edition like us. In that case, we would be looking at?printing?opportunities here.” Copies of The Economist sold in India are currently printed in Singapore. While foreign news and current affairs magazines are allowed to sell advertising space in India, the facsimile editions of newspaper are not allowed to sell advertising space locally.
Some Indian media houses have?already?announced agreements with foreign magazine publishers to publish their Indian editions in the country. The Anand Bazaar Patrika Group had joined hands with Time Inc. for an Indian edition of Fortune magazine, while Television Eighteen India Ltd (TV18) has teamed up with Forbes Media, the publisher of Forbes magazine, to publish a business magazine in India.
“I can’t comment before reading the fine print of the policy,” said Haresh Chawla, group chief executive officer, Network18 Media and Investments Ltd, parent firm of TV18.