Breakfast Network website to close, will not be registering with MDA

Socio-political commentary site Breakfast Network will be shutting down, said its founder Bertha Henson late Monday night. -- SCREENGRAB: BREAKFAST NETWORK
Socio-political commentary site Breakfast Network will be shutting down, said its founder Bertha Henson late Monday night. -- SCREENGRAB: BREAKFAST NETWORK

Socio-political commentary site Breakfast Network will be shutting down, said its founder Bertha Henson late Monday night.

It will not be registering with the Media Development Authority (MDA), but will return to blogging and posting on Facebook.

"The demand to register - or else - has created a wrinkle in our barely-formed plans to become a sustainable and professional outfit. Therefore, we have decided to suspend operations until we have re-strategised or at least till the amendments to the Broadcasting Act are unveiled," wrote Ms Henson in the site's final post.

The announcement came one day before the Dec 10 deadline by which the MDA had asked the eight-month old website to register under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification. It also had to undertake not to receive foreign funding.

The regulator had made this request on Nov 26, and extended the original deadline by a week. The move is meant to guard against foreign influence on Singapore politics through the manipulation of local media platforms, said the MDA then.

Ms Henson, who was also Breakfast Network's owner, editor and sole shareholder, said that lawyers and business people had described the registration forms as "onerous".

"We could declare that all revenue came through bona fide commercial transactions, but we would probably need to produce some kind of proof if queried," she said.

The site, whch relies primarily on volunteers, would also have had to name any persons involved in managing or running the site.

"The MDA has insisted that even pro bono editors have to be named. I cannot compel people to agree to do that. Nor should I," she wrote.

"From a bureaucratic point of view, everything looks easy. It boils down to this: If you are not receiving dubious foreign funds, why should you be worried?"

But the former Straits Times associate editor said the Government "should think a bit harder" about imposing regulations on the Internet.

She pointed to a view among some, that a site's conceding to regulation may mark a "slippery slope" that will mean online views start to resemble those in the mainstream media.

"Some people even wonder if this was a way to crimp the growth of a media outfit that could prove over time too big and too difficult to handle if not regulated at its infancy," she added.

Another local news website, The Independent, had also been asked by the MDA to register and submitted its forms last week for the regulator's review.