IDA-MDA merger will ensure fairness to all with streamlining of laws: Experts

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and the Media Development Authority (MDA) are headed towards a merger.
The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and the Media Development Authority (MDA) are headed towards a merger.PHOTO: IDA, MDA/FACEBOOK

The biggest benefit from the merger of Singapore's infocomm and media regulators is the streamlining of laws to ensure fairness to all without strangling innovation, said lawyers and companies.

Singapore's media laws now subject local brick-and-mortar content distributors - including Singtel and StarHub - to far stricter regulations than overseas players that provide content online.

The latter include Apple iTunes, Google Play and Netflix, which have set up e-stores in Singapore.

 

But going forward, the new Infocommunications Media Development Authority (IMDA) - from the merger of the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and the Media Development Authority (MDA) - will oversee the amendment of the laws, which have been under review since 2012.

Lawyer Rajesh Sreenivasan, a technology and telecoms partner at Rajah & Tann, said the role of the enlarged regulator is significant as threats to the traditional media business have come from the Internet players.

"IMDA will now be able to provide regulatory oversight and analyse the impact of such players across the media, telecoms and IT sectors in Singapore holistically," he said.

"It will lead to the streamlining of the legislative and licensing framework governing infocommunications and media industry players."

Singtel group chief executive Chua Sock Koong concurred, saying the merger is timely and will help accelerate its effort to innovate in both sectors.

"The new IMDA is well-positioned to drive the national innovation agenda and ensure a consistent regulatory framework," she said.

Other companies have also given the merger the thumbs up.

StarHub chief executive Tan Tong Hai said: "It is no longer possible to draw a clear line between the infocommunications and media spaces. The (merger) of IDA and MDA is certainly moving in the right direction, especially as Singapore evolves into a smart nation."

Mr Vignesa Moorthy, chief executive of ViewQwest, said: "The merger is a sign of the times where you can no longer separate content from technology. The two must go hand in hand."

The fibre broadband service provider recently started selling solutions for smart homes.

Veteran local entrepreneur David Ng, now boss of six-month-old mobile game start-up goGame, said: "The converged agency will have a fuller view of the challenges facing the industry when setting policies."

This will in turn allow it to respond decisively to opportunities and challenges when they arise, especially in the burgeoning mobile game creation business, he added.

Irene Tham

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2016, with the headline 'Merger will 'ensure fairness to all with streamlining of laws''. Print Edition | Subscribe