MDA clarifies new licensing scheme

The Media Development Authority in Singapore continues to stress that its new licensing scheme is not an attempt to influence the editorial slant of news sites (Photo: Media Development Authority, Singapore Facebook page)

The Media Development Authority (MDA) clarifies further on the new licensing scheme set to take effect tomorrow 1 June.

In a Facebook post on Friday evening, it assures the public that the new ruling that requires online news websites to take up a licence is “not an attempt to influence the editorial slant of news sites”.

It comes a day after 20 socio-political writers banded to put up a joint statement protesting the licensing requirements.

The MDA post has drawn more than 70 shares on Facebook and 60 mostly critical comments as at 6pm Friday.

The complete post reads as follows:

Much has been discussed about recent changes to the licensing framework for news sites and we thank you for your comments. We thought it would be useful to clear the air by highlighting some key facts of our current media regulations.

1. The licensing framework only applies to sites that focus on reporting Singapore news and are notified by MDA that they meet the licensing criteria. An individual publishing views on current affairs and trends on his/her personal website or blog does not amount to news reporting.

2. There is no change to the content standards for these news sites. Today, these sites already have to observe content guidelines under the Class Licence which require the sites to make best efforts to keep their sites free of harmful content which are against public interest, public morality, public order, public security and national harmony. These same class licensing guidelines will continue to apply under the individual licence.

3. MDA's content guidelines are focused on core content concerns that would threaten the social fabric and national interests of our country. Examples include content that incites racial or religious hatred; misleads and causes mass panic; or advocates or promotes violence.

4. The framework is not an attempt to influence the editorial slant of news sites.

5. MDA will only step in when complaints are raised to our attention, and we assess that the content is in breach of the content guidelines and merits action by the website owner.

6. Takedown requests are not common. In the past two years, MDA has only issued one take-down notice for the “Innocence of Muslims” video.

7. The performance bond of $50,000 is pegged to that put up by niche broadcasters today, and need not necessarily entail cash up front. Licensees can consider options such as banker’s guarantee or insurance. MDA will be happy to engage in further discussions with any licensee who may have concerns about meeting the licence obligations.

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