Publishing Indian editions of foreign news magazines

By Manoj K Singh and Daizy Chawla, Singh & Associates, Advocates and Solicitors
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The government of India through its press note dated 4 December 2008, has decided to allow the publication of Indian editions of foreign magazines and periodicals in the news and current affairs category, by Indian entities. The publication can be made with or without foreign investment. Foreign investors are permitted to invest up to 26% in these publications.

Magazines which qualify include those that contain news content or comments on public news, which are published on a non-daily basis. The title of the magazine should be verified and subsequently registered with the Indian entities/publishers from the Registrar of Newspapers for India (RNI) under the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, and according to the procedure outlined below.

Basic conditions for a licence

(a) The entity/publisher should be a company incorporated under the Indian Companies Act, 1956.

(b) The foreign magazine of which the Indian edition is proposed should have excellent credentials.

(c) At least three-quarters of the directors on the board of directors of the applicant Indian company and all key executives and editorial staff should be resident Indians.

(d) The applicant Indian company must frame its articles/memorandum of association to ensure compliance with the prescribed eligibility criteria.

(e) Identical reproductions of the foreign magazine concerned are permitted. Indian publishers are free to add local content and advertisements to the Indian edition.

(f) The foreign counterpart of the magazine must be a publication that has been approved by the regulatory authority of the respective government of the country in which it is based (in the case where such approvals are required overseas).

(g) The proposed publication should have been published continuously for a period of at least five years and must have had a circulation size of at least 10,000 paid copies in its most recent financial year in the country of its origin. Further, the period of continuous publication and circulation must be certified by the respective governmental authority of the country to which it belongs. If there is no such governmental authority regulating such matters, the certificate should be obtained from respected and recognized agencies engaged in the business of certification.

(h) Any Indian company publishing an Indian edition of a foreign magazine in India will be subject to all the relevant laws and guidelines applicable to Indian news magazines and their publishers.

(i) The applicant entity should fully disclose its licence agreement and financial arrangement with the foreign entity at the time of application. Any subsequent change should be disclosed to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) within 15 days of the change. Any changes with respect to the composition of resident Indian directors or key executives and editorial staff should also be disclosed within 15 days after the changes have been effected. Such changes will be subject to approval from the MIB.

(j) If the proposed board of director, key executive or editorial staff of the company is a non-resident, prior clearance from the MIB will be required. Similarly, approval is required if any foreigner, non-resident Indian or person of Indian origin is proposed to be employed in the entity for more than 60 days a year, either as consultant or as regular employee or in any other capacity.

(k) The applicant company must permit Indian governmental agencies to inspect the facilities required for the publication of the Indian edition of a foreign magazine, as and when required.

The MIB will have the right to suspend/withdraw/cancel the permit of a company publishing Indian editions of a foreign magazine for a specified period if the conditions in the grant of permission are violated.

Permits may also be suspended in the interest of national security or for public interest reasons. The company in this case is expected to comply immediately with the directive issued in this regard. The company is expected to stop publishing its Indian editions of foreign magazines if their permit is suspended/withdrawn/cancelled by the MIB.

The MIB has the right to amend these guidelines, as and when necessary.

Applications for the publication of Indian editions of foreign magazines in the news and current affairs sector will be processed and decided by the MIB on the basis of inter-ministerial consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of External Affairs, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Corporate Affairs and other ministries and departments, as may be required.

Manoj K Singh is the managing partner and Daizy Chawla is a partner at Singh & Associates, Advocates and Solicitors, a law firm based in New Delhi.

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