[Update on 4 April 2014, 12:21pm: Added statement saying that Singapore news website Mothership.sg has agreed to register under Broadcasting Act]
Mothership.sg, the third Singapore news website asked by the Media Development Authority (MDA) to register under the Broadcasting Act in the past year, has agreed to do so.
In a statement to Yahoo Singapore on Friday, they said, “We will accede to MDA's request to register under Section 9 of the Broadcasting Act, and to comply with all laws, rules, regulations and codes of practice that have been put in place to regulate broadcasting in Singapore.”
The corporate entity behind the site, Project Fisher-Man Pte Ltd, was asked by MDA on 27 March to register under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification, enacted under Section 9 of the Broadcasting Act, MDA said.
Registering will require Mothership.sg to agree not to receive foreign funding for its “provision, management and/or operation”. However, the registration will not affect the contents published on the site, said MDA.
Mothership.sg team said, “The concern that foreign funding or any form of foreign influence impinging on our site's activities, integrity or operations has never been an issue,” adding, “We hope that our compliance will allow us to continue to serve the Singapore community, without fear or favour. We also hope that this move will bring us a step closer to obtaining full accreditation as a media in Singapore and help in our effort to become a viable and sustainable enterprise.”
Pioneer members of the site’s editorial team include blogger and satire site New Nation co-founder Belmont Lay, Jonathan Lim and Martino Tan. They will clarify their position with MDA as soon possible.
The website, which started operations in August last year, met the registration criteria because it engages in the “propagation, promotion or discussion of political issues relating to Singapore” and “it is structured as a corporate entity which is deemed to be more susceptible to coming under foreign influence through foreign funding”, the agency said.
In their Facebook page on Thursday, when the team was still mulling over their decision, they said, “Registering is not as scary as it sounds because The Independent Singapore and Breakfast Network were previously asked to do the same. If we comply and register, we will go the way of The Independent Singapore, who are still around, writing and publishing. If we don't comply, we will go the way of Breakfast Network, which is now defunct.”
The same notification was sent to local current affairs and news site The Independent Singapore as well as opinion site Breakfast Network (BN) in July and December of last year, respectively. The former agreed to the registration and submitted forms in December. MDA has confirmed that their registration was successful.
However, BN founder Bertha Henson refused, saying that she did not receive satisfactory explanation from MDA regarding the significance of the registration and that she was not given enough time to consider its implications on BN. She chose to shut down the site as well as the corporate entity behind it.
In response to a question in Parliament on 20 January this year on the registration of websites, the Ministry of Communications and Information said, “It is a longstanding principle that foreign entities are not allowed to engage in Singapore politics. Foreign interests should also not be allowed to control or worse, to manipulate our local media platforms, which are prime vehicles for influence or even subversion. This is not in itself new.”