MUMBAI: Media mogul and Essel Group
chairman Subhash Chandra has said
that the US government should allow
Indian companies to own news media in
their country if they want the Indian
government to open up the news media
sector for American companies.
Chandra said that he is not opposed to
the government increasing foreign
direct investment (FDI) limit for
foreign companies as long as the
gesture is reciprocated by the US
“I am not against the government
increasing foreign ownership in news
media to 49 per cent or even 100 per
cent. If Americans want 100 per cent
ownership in news media here, then
they should give 100 per cent foreign
ownership to us in their country. As
long as they reciprocate, I have no
issues,” Chandra said during an
interaction with journalist, analyst
and author Shankkar Aiyer on ‘News
Neutrality’ at IAA Conversations
An inter-ministerial committee is
considering the Telecom Regulatory
Authority of India’s (TRA)
recommendations on increasing FDI
limit in the broadcast sector, which
includes enhancing FDI limit to 49 per
cent for uplinking of news and current
affairs TV channels.
Chandra also said that he was in
favour of allowing corporates to
enter into media business. He also said
that there should be adequate checks
and balances on who can enter news
“First, we have to determine the
ownership itself. Who is the owner is
second level. There are 300 news
channels in India and I can bet 70 per
cent of them are owned by those who
are not eligible to own. Ownership of
channels are very opaque and I won’t
be surprised if one or two channels
are owned by Dawood Ibrahim,” he
He also said that he would give
suggestions to the government to
check media ownership in news media.
“We are working on it. Hopefully, in
the next 30 days after Bihar
elections, we will get some traction,”
The current system of security
clearance is not enough to check
undeserving people from entering
news media, Chandra averred.
Without naming, he cited the example
of a channel that is pumping in money
despite reeling in heavy losses. “I
know a news company that has never
made money, but they are still
spending like there is no tomorrow.
Some corporates have given them Rs
400–500 crore zero interest coupon.
Now the question is who owns that
company,” Chandra said.
On the issue of the relationship
between media owners and
advertisers, Chandra said that there
was an advertiser that had stopped
advertising on Zee channels after a
negative was aired about them. This
advertiser, Chandra revealed, had Rs
30–40 crore (Rs 300–400 million)
budget on Zee.
He also emphasised that media should
take both sides of the story, but if
the corporate advertisers still resort
to taking back advertising, then there
is little that the media can do.
“We are launching an English-
language channel in which we are
certainly taking advertising from
advertisers as founding partners. We
are going to give them good pricing
and good rates rather than anything
else,” he said.
Chandra also said that Zee Media was
working on a technology that will
track the progress of a story to free
it from individual biases.
“We will deploy technological engines
from January onwards that the
moment anybody starts working on a
story there is no way that news will
not be recorded by the technological
engines itself and what happened to
that story up to what level will be all
available. We feel that we will be able
to control the biases of individuals up
to 90 per cent,” he said.
Talking about his political
affiliations, Chandra admitted that he
favoured the Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP) during the 2014 Lok Sabha
elections. This was also the first time
that he openly campaigned against a
political party in elections.
He also said that he was certainly
anti-Congress during the elections
and not pro-BJP. “Even if I say I am
pro-BJP, are the other media owners
not pro-Congress or pro-
Communist?” he contended. He was
quick to add that he more friends in
other parties than BJP.
On his famous public spat with
Congress politician and Jindal Steel
and Power MD Naveen Jindal, Chandra
said that the allegations of blackmail
against him were politically
“That case was politically motivated.
Many UPA leaders were behind this. We
have been exonerated by the courts
and the SC had also cancelled those
coal block allocations,” he stated.
MUMBAI: Media mogul and Essel Group