An earlier demand by the Media Development Authority for social enterprise The Opinion Collaborative Ltd to return S$5,000 worth in foreign advertising revenue has “grave implications on the development of Singapore’s independent media industry… as well as the standing of foreign companies in Singapore”, said the owners of the company.
TOC Ltd, the former owner of local social-political news website The Online Citizen, released a media statement to say that they have responded directly to MDA to seek responses to questions that highlight their concerns.
“The Opinion Collaborative have not decided on whether or not to return the funds to Monsoons Book Club,” said Howard Lee, a director of TOC Ltd. “At this point in time, we find MDA’s demand unreasonable, and fully intend to contest it.”
In the letter to MDA, TOC Ltd pointed out that MDA has not clearly identified how Monsoons Book Club Ltd (MBC Ltd) is a “non-commercial foreign entity”, or why the advertising agreement between the two registered social enterprises was “not for bona fide commercial purposes”.
MBC Ltd is a company registered in the United Kingdom in February 2015.
Its activities include promoting the reading of books which offer challenging ideas for social change, and encouraging discussions and critical thinking about social, political and economic progress in the South East Asian region.
The funds in question were for the running of the “My Singapore, My Future” essay contest in lieu of SG50, where MBC Ltd had right of placement of its logo on every essay published on TOC.
TOC Ltd currently runs an event space called The Agora, and have planned for a series of talks with authors, the first being Dr Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party.
TOC Ltd also questioned why MDA took almost a year to get back to the company about the funds.
“We would like to clarify if it is MDA’s usual practice to ask media companies to withhold funds from funding sources until MDA so chooses to demand that they be returned; and if so, for how long MDA expects media companies to withhold such funds,” Mr Lee wrote in the letter to MDA.
However, TOC Ltd is clear that they would be the entity responding to MDA’s demands, should there be any need to accede to the regulator’s demands.
“We uphold our obligation as an involved participant in Singapore’s media sphere very seriously,” said Mr Lee, who has been the company’s point of contact with MDA representing the other directors, Lee Song Kwang and Tan Tee Seng.
TOC Ltd has requested for MDA’s response in a week, due to the urgency of the issue and the impact that it has on local media and the international business community.
MDA has demanded that TOC Ltd returns the funds to MBC Ltd in 30 days (4 April 2015).