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 “We at Newslaundry are from the world of news and want to turn the mirror on ourselves. We respect independence, we value justice and we consider transparency an important and achievable goal for credibility. We will question established ways and models that get too comfortable and cozy becoming inert. Inertia is death.”
When this satirical website on mass media prepared this profile, it perhaps did not realize that one day it would also put the Government into tizzy by seeking permission to bring in modest foreign direct investment (FDI). 
Yes. The application of News Laundry Media Private Limited (NLMPL), the company that owns popular website newslaundry.com, to sell its 6.25% promoters’ stake to Singapore-based Digital Media Laboratory Pte Ltd (DMLPL) has stirred up ticklish questions for the Government.
This might well lead to rejection or washing away of the application of Newslaundry, which believes in Sabki dhulai (a wash for everyone. And a maiden wash for Newslaundry perhaps.) 
No Ministry has taken responsibility as the administrative ministry for online news and analysis websites. The Government thus cannot decide which provision of foreign investment policy should be applicable in the case of NLMPL. The upshot is the emergence of a series of questions for which the Government does not have any ready answers. It has thus deferred a decision on the company’s application.
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B) says that the application does not come under its purview as the applicant is engaged in dissemination of information through its website.
Similarly, the Department of Electronics and Information Technology has contended that the NLMPL’s application does not come under its purview. 
The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has noted that the company is not in the business of publishing newspaper and periodicals but at the same time, it is engaged in the business of analysis, comment, critique and reporting of news through videos, articles, comic and animation on its own website which is the job that a newspaper performs.   
DIPP believes that the application should be considered under the provision numbered 6.2.8.1 relating to FDI in print media under the consolidated FDI Policy. NLMPL’s proposal for 6.25% FDI is thus within the permissible limit of 26%. DIPP thus says that it “does not have any objection from the point of view of FDI policy.”
The application can be processed under two other provisions of FDI policy. One is the provision numbered 6.2.7.2.2 relating to the uplinking of news & current affairs TV channels that provides for 26% cap on FDI. 
The other provision is numbered 4.1.3(v) (d) of the FDI policy relating to calculation of foreign investment in I&B sector where the FDI sectoral cap is less than 49%. This stipulates that in such cases, the company should be owned and controlled by Indian residents and the single largest resident shareholder should have 51% equity stake.
If the last provision is also applied to the application, then it might well get rejected as no single resident shareholder of the website is compliant with the requirement of 51% stake.
Put simply, NLMPL faces the risk of rejection of its application by virtue of its shareholding pattern. Four resident Indians led by noted journalist-entrepreneur Madhu Terhan hold 25% equity stake each in the website. The equity stake of each of the four promoters would get diluted to 23.43% after the sale of 6.25% shares to DMLPL. 
Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) wants I&B Ministry to specify the provisions of FDI policy that should be applied to NLMPL. If none of the three provisions are applicable to newslaundry.com, then the Ministry should tell FIPB what particular guidelines need to be followed while examining such proposals.
 
 
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