News website told to register

News website told to register
The homepage of Mothership.sg.

SINGAPORE - The website Mothership.sg has become the latest online news platform to be asked by regulator Media Development Authority (MDA) to register, a move that will forbid it from receiving foreign funds.

Mothership counts former foreign minister George Yeo among its contributors, and is backed by a social enterprise known as Project Fisher-Men, which is chaired by a top public-sector leader, Mr Philip Yeo.

Its editors said in a Facebook post yesterday that they are "mulling our next steps".

"Registering is not as scary as it sounds because The Independent Singapore and Breakfast Network were previously asked to do the same," they said.

"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 two sites were asked by the MDA to register last year.

Yesterday, the MDA said Project Fisher-Men was informed on March 27 to register by April 11, under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification, which comes under Section 9 of the Broadcasting Act.

The class licence, enacted in 1996, is automatically given to Internet content and service providers. It lets them operate in Singapore and requires them to follow the rules on banning offensive content under the Broadcasting Act.

But some are also required to register. Mothership has to do so because it is deemed to be engaging "in the propagation, promotion or discussion of political issues relating to Singapore", an MDA spokesman said.

It is also "structured as a corporate entity which is deemed to be more susceptible to coming under foreign influence through foreign funding", she added.

She also said registration will not affect what Mothership can publish on its site.

In December last year, The Independent Singapore submitted its forms and has since been registered, the MDA confirmed yesterday. In the same month, Breakfast Network was ordered to close down its website and Facebook page after it refused to register.

Mothership went live last August. In February this year, it upgraded its server and relaunched the website to increase story contributions and visitors.

Last month, it had 604,170 unique visitors, its editors said.

And since January this year, it has received a monthly average of 404,219 unique visitors and 956,860 page views. This is an increase from an

average of 219,749 unique visitors and 337,879 unique page views for the five months before that.

With a mixture of humour, commentary and news, Mothership gives a daily brief on what it considers the important news headlines of the day.

chanckr@sph.com.sg

This article was published on April 4 in The Straits Times.

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