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.
1. It’s about consistency in treatment, not clamping down the Internet: Singaporeans are increasingly accessing news and current affairs over the Internet. The adjustment recognizes the trend and provides greater regulatory consistency between online news sites and traditional media platforms such as newspapers and TV broadcasters, which are currently already individually-licensed.
2. MDA has already listed the 10 sites they intend to regulate, and they are:
– omy.sg; sg.news.yahoo.com;
Other sites that are not amongst the 10 sites will not be regulated under the new licensing framework come 1 June 2013.
3. There’s nothing new or particularly unusual in the requirements for the 10 sites:
a) These online news sites, which are currently class-licensed, already have to comply with the content standards outlined in the Class Licence and Internet Code of Practice, for example, not putting up anything that offends against good taste or decency, or incites racial and religious hatred. The tweaking to the licensing framework does not change these content standards, but is intended to provide greater clarity on these standards.
b) The licensed websites are also required to put up a performance bond ($50,000). This is similar to what niche TV broadcasters already have to comply with (such as Razor TV or xinmsn).
c) The websites will now need to comply within 24 hours to MDA’s directions to remove content that is found to be in breach of content standards, whereas previously the time-frame was not specified. The time-frame is in view of the fact that news spreads very fast on the internet and 24 hours would be a reasonable timeframe for the site-owner to act, having been instructed by MDA
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