NEW DELHI: The government on Friday clarified that the rule allowing 26% FDI in digital media will apply to news aggregators, entities uploading, streaming news and current affairs on websites, apps or other platforms as well as news agencies, and also called for self-regulating bodies for digital media.
The department for promotion of industry and internal trade said that entities covered by these guidelines will get a year to align their operations in line with the current guidelines. They have also been asked to comply with other guidelines for the sector, including appointing an Indian CEO and having a board, where majority of the directors are Indian citizens. All foreign personnel will also need security clearance in case they are deployed for over 60 days in a year. “These guidelines address the security concerns that were raised and create a level-playing field with digital media,” said a government source.
Officials also said that concerns of stakeholders regarding circumvention and evasion of FDI policy prescription through ‘news agencies’ and ‘aggregators’ have also been addressed, while putting national interest first.
For the government, a key concern was the presence of Chinese and foreign-owned digital media outlets that did not comply with the cap. Entities such as Daily Hunt, Helo, UCNews, Opera News, and Newsdog appeared to be majority-owned by foreign entities, including by Chinese players.
“Some of the news entities may serve as propaganda vehicles inimical to India’s interests and seek to influence Indian elections. Genuine FDI flows, not inimical to India’s interests, into digital media news entities will be facilitated. Some news entities especially inimical to India’s interests may be impacted by the FDI policy requirements, particularly requirements regarding Indian citizenship of majority directors and CEO,” said a source.
The rule will apply to digital media entities registered, located in India. Some of the gaps had been highlighted by the industry participants, the government said.
Officials said reforms have resulted in availability of cheap internet data, explosion of internet usage and proliferation of digital media news entities. “Threat of fake news, propaganda vehicles and information warfare or foreign influence and interference in India’s domestic affairs is more real than ever, particularly from our hostile neighbours. There are ample examples of entities putting out distorted news in various countries of the world. For instance, there are allegations that foreign state sponsored media outlets are running disinformation campaigns and trying to influence the forthcoming US elections. Policy prescription puts India’s national interest first and curbs these threats,” a source said.
While putting the regulations in place, the government is also evaluating more incentives and benefits that may be allowed to digital media news entities and executives to further improve ‘ease of doing business’ and positively impact the emergence of Indian digital media news, officials said.

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