SINGAPORE - The Media Development Authority (MDA) has told socio-political website Breakfast Network to register with it and undertake not to receive foreign funding as the Government moves to align rules for new media with those for mainstream media.
The website's owners were notified on Tuesday to register the site under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification, the MDA said in a statement on Wednesday.
They have until Dec 10 to comply.
The site also has to agree not to receive foreign funds for its "provision, management and/or operation".
The move is meant to guard against foreign influence on Singapore politics through the manipulation of local media platforms, said the MDA.
"The registration will not in any way affect what Breakfast Network can publish on its site... (and) will prevent the site from being controlled by, or coming under the influence of, foreign entities or funding," the media regulator said.
Newspapers and TV stations also come under laws that restrict ownership.
In July, current affairs website The Independent became the first site asked to register after the Government received information that it said gave it "cause for concern over foreign interest to fund" the site.
The site has yet to register. It said yesterday it was studying the forms received from the MDA.
Editor of Breakfast Network Bertha Henson said on Wednesday the MDA told her they had not received information that she was seeking foreign funding. She is the only investor in the site, which does not yet have any advertisements, she added.
The class licence, enacted in 1996, is automatically granted to Internet content and service providers here. It allows them to operate in Singapore, and also subjects them to rules banning offensive content under the Broadcast Act.
But only some websites, such as those "engaged in the propagation, promotion or discussion of political issues relating to Singapore", are required to register.
Ms Henson, a former Straits Times associate editor, said her main concern was that the move could potentially scare off and "crimp legitimate investors and sponsors from coming in".
The editors of Breakfast Network have not come to a decision yet on whether or not to register, she added.
Professor Ang Peng Hwa, director of the Singapore Internet Research Centre, said even though the Government had not imposed all the rules applicable to mainstream media on online media outlets, the requirement could still be onerous.
"The concern is whether these rules would stifle these (media) start-ups and innovation," he said.
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