Murdoch urges Manmohan to allow greater FDI in media sector

New Delhi, March 22 | Updated: Mar 23 2005, 05:30am hrs
Amid speculation on how soon the Tata-Star direct-to-home (DTH) venture would get a government clearance, News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, and home minister Shivraj Patil here on Tuesday. Star India is a fully-owned subsidiary of News Corp.

Mr Murdoch is learnt to have expressed his high level of interest in the India market during these meetings. He is also believed to have urged both Mr Singh and Mr Patil to open up the media sector and allow greater foreign direct investment. The group may consider increasing investments here, it is learnt. Mr Murdoch refused to take questions from the media. Star sources described Mr Murdochs meetings with the PM and other political dignitaries as "courtesy visits".

Meanwhile, highly-placed sources said that the Department of Company Affairs (DCA) was still examining the Space TV (Tata-Star joint venture) DTH application. It is learnt that Space TV revised its application after the government had raised doubts over certain management issues.

Mr Murdoch is in the country along with Star CEO Mitchelle Guthrie, Times editor Robert Thompson, and chief financial officer of News Corp David Devoe. Ananda Bazar Patrikas Aveek Sarkar was with the Murdoch team when he met Ms Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday. Ananda Bazar Patrika is the 74% stakeholder in Star News channel. The ABP-Star JV is in the process of launching a Bengali channel soon.

Tata, Star and ABP spokespersons said its business as usual, despite the industry buzz that there may be changes in Stars India projects.