Parliament: Broadcasting Act to be updated this year

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said the update to broadcasting laws is necessary as technology has enabled Singaporeans to access a wide variety of content online.
Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said the update to broadcasting laws is necessary as technology has enabled Singaporeans to access a wide variety of content online.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

SINGAPORE - An update to the broadcasting laws is necessary as technology has enabled Singaporeans to access a wide variety of content online, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said on Monday (March 6).

"When overseas content providers are directly targeting Singaporeans, we need to ensure that their content is in line with our community values, including the need to uphold racial and religious harmony," he said.

This will come as part of an update on the Broadcasting Act that will be done later this year. Details will be announced soon, Dr Yaacob said, and the Government will consult businesses and the public on the proposed changes.

"The Internet is vast and open, but if an entity reports news about Singapore regularly to inform Singaporeans on matters of public interest, we expect them to do so responsibly," he said during the debate on his ministry's budget.

He also pointed out that tech giants such as Facebook and Google have recognised that a certain degree of control is necessary. For instance, Google has prohibited advertisements on sites with deliberate misinformation, while Facebook is mobilising users to call out misinformation in their news feeds.

The move comes amid increasing concern about fake news, which several MPs spoke about.

 
 
 

Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) noted that false information was said to have shaped voter behaviour in last year's Brexit vote and US presidential elections, while Mr Ong Teng Koon (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) stressed the dangers of fake news straining religious and ethnic faultlines in Singapore's diverse society.

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) suggested that Parliament sittings be streamed live online to provide a source of reliable information to better inform the public.

The Government is studying any changes very closely, he said, to avoid adding undue burden to businesses.

But a review of laws and regulations is just one aspect of dealing with misinformation, Dr Yaacob said. The public also plays a crucial role in being discerning when accessing information.

"To this end, we will continue to promote information and media literacy to all Singaporeans, particularly our young and those who may be vulnerable," he said.