News Media and FDI

The influence of news media on control of global narratives has come into question as China and other countries try to get on top of the news during a pandemic. China has tried to control the news around the spread of the disease. USCIRF downgraded India’s rank and many other nations have tried to smudge India’s face on the international front in recent. How does India plan to fight the misinformation and control narratives?
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

What’s the deal?
China is accused of covering up information about Coronavirus. Recently, it added a vetting process for online publication of research related to the origin of Coronavirus. Many foreign and domestic media developed a one-sided image of India through their platforms after India passed the Citizenship Amendment Act in December 2019. Recent reports published by Indian agencies state that Pakistan’s ISI is involved in a misinformation campaign to accentuate the religious divide in India. Also, a twitter account called “@Pak_Fauj” masqueraded as Princess of Oman and tweeted to oust Indians in Oman if India does not stop the persecution of Indian Muslims. UUS religious freedom watchdog USCIRF downgraded India’s rating to ‘Country of Particular Concern’. India rejected the report, condemned USCIRF for being biased and motivated. All these instances showcsae the power of media in today’s age.

Are geopolitical interests passed into the mainstream through investment in media? If yes, what shield does India have?

FDI in Media
In 2019, the Indian government announced that up to 26% FDI is allowed in Digital Media. Digital Media category has come out of the broader print and broadcast media. Before this announcement, there was no limit on FDI in digital media companies. However, the FDI limit for print media is 26% and broadcast media/news channel is 49%.

Then, a lot of industry players raised questions on the survival of companies like HuffPost of Microsoft’s news websites that operate from foreign and are funded 100% by non-Indian entities. Other things like is this India’s beginning to ban overseas media as China did popped up as well.

However, with the growing influence of Chinese and other media, would India’s move to restrict or filter misinformation from outside through indirectly controlling the stake in the company be of assistance today?

Peeking Beyond
Media can be used as a tool to control the narratives. Historically, China has banned outside media to a large extent and recently it banned publication of research papers on the origin of Coronavirus. Chinese media has a significant presence in the Indian digital media industry. ByteDance’s TikTok and Helo, Newsdog, etc. are widespread in the Indian digital media space. American media also has influence in the Indian media with Quint associating with Bloomberg, Wire’s founder hailing from America, and presence of HuffPost, MSNBC, CNN IBN, Network18’s channels, etc.

According to a 2019 report, China plans to invest $1.3 bn to increase the global presence of Chinese Media. China Global Television Network (CGTN) has reached 140 nations and China Radio International 65.

Can India’s FDI norm in media help pick out the weeds in the global media placed by notorious agencies backed by nations trying to establish a narrative?
Will India start developing its own narrative?

  • ByteDance was founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. As of 2019, with more than 1 billion monthly users, ByteDance is valued at $75 billion, making it the most valuable startup in the world. Zhang’s personal wealth is estimated at $16.2 billion, making him the ninth richest person in China.
  • BloombergQuint is an Indian business and financial news organization founded in 2016 by Raghav Bahl and Ritu Kapur. It is a joint venture of Bloomberg News and Quintillion Media. Within six months of going live, the web portal received one million monthly users.
  • The United States remains the largest recipient of FDI, attracting $251 billion in inflows, followed by China with flows of $140 billion and Singapore with $110 billion. While India attracted approximately $49 billion in 2019.

I&B Ministry bans 2 Malayalam TV channels for biased coverage of Delhi riots

On charges of biased reporting of Delhi riots with a deliberate focus on the vandalism of CAA supporters, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) had suspended two Malayalam news channels – Asianet and Media One for 48-hours on 6th March 2020.

Crux of the Matter

Breach of Law, Says IB
The I&B Ministry reprimanded both the channels and said that such reporting could enhance the communal disharmony and it should have been reported in a balanced way.

The Ministry says the coverage of Delhi riots violated Rule 6(1c) which states that ‘no program should be carried in the cable service which contains an attack on religions or communities or visuals or words contemptuous of religious groups or which promote communal attitudes.’

Secondly, they were also held responsible for violating Rule 6(1e) that states that ‘no program should be carried in the cable service which is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promote anti-national attitudes.’

The Central government had revoked the ban on 7th March hours after the two channels were charged for ‘being biased and critical of the police and RSS.’

News Broadcasting Association President Rajat Sharma condemned the decision of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and said, “I am shocked to learn that a decision like this was taken without the knowledge of the Minister for Information & Broadcasting.”

The NBA has asked that all complaints relating to the broadcast of news should be referred to the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA). Rajat Sharma also demanded an inquiry in this regard and appreciated the concern shown by PM Narendra Modi in this matter and the subsequent withdrawal of the imposed ban.

I&B Minister Mr.Prakash Javadekar said, “The PM has expressed concern over the entire issue… and the government supports press freedom. We would look into the matter and take the necessary steps. But let me also tell you that everybody should accept that there has to be responsible freedom.”

Media One is owned by Madhyamam Broadcasting Limited which is backed by Jamaat-e-Islami. Asianet News is indirectly owned by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar.


The News Broadcasters Association is a private association of different current affairs and news television broadcasters in India established by leading Indian news broadcasters on 3 July 2007. The NBA represents the private television news & current affairs broadcasters. It is the collective voice of the news & current affairs broadcasters in India. It has presently 27 leading news and current affairs broadcasters (comprising 77 news and current affairs channels) as its members lead by Mr.Rajat Sharma (Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of India TV) as the President. More Info

Subhash Chandra Steps Down as Zee Chairman

Subhash Chandra, the founder of India’s first satellite television company, Zee has resigned and stepped down as the Chairman of Zee Board with immediate effect as his stake in the company came down to a mere 5%.

Crux of the Matter
  • Subhash Chandra will continue as a non-executive director Zee Board as Essel Group representative.
  • Zee board has appointed six independent directors which will have to be approved by the shareholders.
  • The Chandra family’s stake in ZEE has fallen down to 5% from 41% a year ago.
  • The reason for the sharp decline is mostly because of a series of inappropriate and expensive infrastructure bets which were borrowed heavily from mutual funds and non-bank firms to fund road and renewable energy projects. 
  • To meet its loan repayment obligations Essel Group on 20 November had said that it is planning to sell 16.5 per cent stake in its flagship ZEEL to financial creditors.
  • The group has sold 11 per cent stake in ZEEL to Invesco-Oppenheimer fund for ₹4,224 crores in the month of September.
  • Essel Group is an Indian conglomerate company presently headed by Dr Subhash Chandra, based in Mumbai, Maharashtra, and established in 1926. Essel Group has its diverse business presence in sectors of Media, Entertainment, Packaging, Infrastructure, Education, Precious metals, Finance and Technology. Currently, the Zee TV network, consisting of 90 channels that reach 1.3 Billion people over 174 countries. More Info