Sep 19, 2008

Business - India;Government opens a new page for foreign news magazines

International news magazines like Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Time and Newsweek will soon be able to offer cheaper versions of their publications in India after the government today allowed foreign news magazines to publish local editions with local news content and advertising.

Till today, international magazines could only print and distribute their global editions in India with some local advertising.

The new norm means that companies that are registered under the Indian Companies Act 1951 can now not only apply for permission to reproduce these magazines locally but can also publish local news.

The decision applies only to foreign news magazines, not newspapers. English magazines account for over 5 per cent of the Rs 9,000-crore print advertising pie.

Foreign magazines like Fortune are currently priced at Rs 180, a hefty premium to Indian news magazines that cost Rs 10 to Rs 20 depending on their frequency.

Said a publisher who has tie ups with foreign magazines: "Of course prices will drop dramatically. After all, today’s decision will help them to get mass circulation and compete effectively with the Indian magazines."

"We welcome this decision. It is, in fact, a result of us lobbying for it for the past three years,” said Ashish Bagga, CEO of Living Media India Ltd, publishers of India Today and other magazines.

“This will encourage a number of publishers to bring in foreign news magazines. Next, we expect the government to raise the foreign direct investment limit from 26 per cent to 49 per cent for such magazines," he added.

"Several other foreign news magazines like Newsweek and BusinessWeek that have shown interest in starting a local edition will now be encouraged to launch these publications shortly," an industry source said.

These publications, however, will need to comply with the stipulations in the latest print media policy. Under these, three-fourth of the directors on the board of these companies must be of Indian origin.

Also, the applicant company will have to appoint Indians as local editorial staff.

The title of the magazine needs to be verified and registered by the Indian company from the Registrar of Newspapers for India and permission will be granted for publication of only such magazines that are being published in the country of their origin.

The government has also said that the magazines concerned “should have been published continuously for a period of at least 5 years, and the publication must have a circulation of at least 10,000 paid copies for the last financial year in the country of its origin" to be eligible for an Indian edition.

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