Indias BJP Bent Toward Strict Media Policy


New Delhi, India -- India's newly elected Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP), winner of the country's general voting in February and March, is
set to implement media policy that may be unfavorable to overseas media companies and
large local players.

Sushma Swaraj, the BJP-appointed minister of information
and broadcasting, said she wants a comprehensive media policy overhaul done within three
months. The new policy, she said, must be sensitive to India's culture -- now
competing against an increasing amount of foreign programming.

Swaraj said she is determined to place a 20 percent equity
cap on foreign network investments in India, a move that could deal a considerable blow to
media companies hoping to tap into the market of 1 billion people.

"We are against foreign equity participation in the
field of culture and information. Even our adversaries ... agree with this view. There is
a national consensus on this subject," she said in an interview.

At the same time, Swaraj indicated that overseas
programmers will have to uplink from within India if they want to do business here. That
is a significant change, because most international programmers currently uplink their
signals from abroad, and beam them into India.

"Once they uplink from within the country, they will
come under the purview of the Indian law," she said. "We will have the
authority to cancel their licenses if they violate this law."

The new policy may also be unfavorable to large domestic media companies, as Swaraj
aims to prevent media consolidation from leading to monopolies.

"Supposing powerful press barons are also allowed to develop control over the
electronic media," she said. "This is against the democratic norm."

Swaraj has also launched an aggressive campaign against liquor advertising on foreign
networks. She notes that while TV liquor advertising is prohibited in many Western
markets, it is featured on Western-based channels that target India.