Mothership.sg told to comply with licensing requirements in place for online news sites

SCREENGRAB: MOTHERSHIP.SG

SINGAPORE - Singapore's media regulator has told a current affairs website that often conveys the news in a light-hearted way that it will have to comply with the same licensing rules demanded of online news websites. (See note below)

The Media Development Authority (MDA) told the website, Mothership.sg, that it had to be "individually licensed", given its frequent reports about Singapore and its significant reach, the operators of Mothership.sg said in a statement today.

Under this licensing framework, Mothership.sg editors will have to comply with MDA's take-down directions - that is, to remove content found to be in breach of certain standards such as being in bad taste, offending religious sensitivities or relating to vice, within 24 hours of being notified.

They also have to put up a performance bond of $50,000, similar to that required for niche TV broadcasters.

Mothership.sg executive director Lien We King and managing editor Martino Tan met with the MDA on July 16, and were informed that their website - launched in August 2013 - has met the threshold that would require a license under Section 8 of the Broadcasting Act.

Mothership.sg becomes the 11th website to come under this individual licensing framework, which came into effect in 2013.

It applies to online news sites that are accessed from at least 50,000 different Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in Singapore each month, over a period of two months in a row, and that contain at least one article a week on Singapore news, over the same two months.

The other 10 sites were individually licensed on June 1, 2013. Seven are under Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), which publishes The Straits Times and operates www.straitstimes.com and Stomp, while two sites are under MediaCorp, and remaining site is Yahoo Singapore.

The MDA said in a statement to The Straits Times that other than these sites and Mothership.sg, "there are no other websites identified at this point for individual licensing".

"Where MDA has assessed that a website has met the criteria to be individually licensed, MDA will issue a formal notification and work with the site to move it to the new licensing framework," MDA added.

MDA says such licensing is necessary, as the content of these websites is relied upon by members of the public to make informed decisions, or to form judgements on matters of public interest.

Separately, Mothership.sg last year was registered as a "class licensee" under another part of the Broadcasting Act, Section 9, which prohibits it from receiving foreign funds.

This regulation was implemented to ensure that foreign entities do not engage in Singapore's domestic politics, or control or manipulate local media platforms.

Registration also requires the identity of the persons behind the website to be declared and allows MDA to extract undertakings from the registrant, such as providing a statutory declaration of non-receipt of foreign funding.

On Wednesday, another online website - The Middle Ground (TMG) - was asked to register under this part of the Act.

 

Its parent company, TMG Pte Ltd, is to be registered as an Internet Content Provider that is engaged in the spreading, promotion and discussion of political issues here, the MDA said in a statement to the media on Wednesday.

It was given 14 calendar days to submit the forms.

TMG editor Bertha Henson said in a Facebook post that she will be complying.

Other websites registered under this section include The Online Citizen and The Independent. MDA emphasised in its statement: "The registration ... will not affect what TMG may publish on its website."


Note: An earlier version of the article said Singapore's media regulator had asked a current affairs website to comply with the same licensing rules demanded of online news websites. MDA has clarified that it is not making a request, and that it has notified Mothership.sg that they will be moved to the individual licensing framework.