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China limits overseas investment in media
( 2002-01-17 00:16 ) (1 )

Chinese regulatory authorities are working on operational rules to guide the fund-raising activities of domestic news media.

It is a major topic of the ongoing national working conference of press and publication directors, which will end tomorrow.

"Details are under discussion now and will come out very soon,'' said an official with the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), who declined to be identified.

"Hong Kong capital may well receive different treatment from other overseas capital in media investment,'' he revealed.

Calls have been growing recently for earlier market access for Hong Kong investors in the absence of relevant policies.

According to news reports released Wednesday, the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) said that operations of Chinese press groups will remain State-monopolized and entirely excluded from private and foreign capital.

The door is only open to large State-owned enterprises (SOEs) and institutions to make investment, after the business operation sections have received authorization to transform into incorporated or shareholding companies.

Yet these investors are still prohibited from holding controlling stakes and are ruled out of making routine management and operational decisions.

Private and overseas capital, along with State capital, will be allowed to invest in the circulation section.

Any violations made previously must be corrected, according to authorities.

The report, which for the first time formally revealed the opening of Chinese news media to the public, is seen as having special significance.

Yu Guoming, a professor of journalism and media with the Renmin University of China, said the remarks might be a prelude to detailed regulations on the opening of the news media.

Sun Xupei, a professor of journalism and media with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, pointed out another possible reason. "Many local governments have been intent on building press groups and introducing a lot of capital, so the State may want to avoid chaos in the operation of news media.''

Both experts believed that opening would be a trend in the long run and the enthusiasm to invest into news media would not diminish.

"I do not think the coming detailed regulations will deal big blows to news media, but people may be more cautious in their investment,'' Yu said.

Sun Xupei also pointed out that since many SOEs are already joint ventures with foreign and private funds, how to define what is SOEs' capital and what areas private and overseas capital are allowed to enter would remain problems for authorities.

An anonymous media analyst with the Shanghai-based Guotai Jun'an Securities Co Ltd also believed the coming regulations would clarify the qualifications of investors and procedures of investing in news media, so many investors would try to seek legal identities rather than circumventing rules.



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