The Opinion Collaborative Ltd (TOC Ltd) has requested for the Media Development Authority (MDA) to drop its demand, made on 4 March to the social enterprise, to return S$5,000 in advertising revenue to Monsoons Book Club Ltd (MBC Ltd).
MDA has demanded the return of funds, meant for advertising MBC Ltd in an essay contest published on The Online Citizen (TOC), as the authority said that it was “from a foreign source but not for bona fide commercial purposes”.
TOC ltd used to own TOC an was responsible for seeking funding for the website, but the two entities have de-linked since late 2015.
In its latest reply to TOC Ltd on 17 March, where the social enterprise sought clarity on some of MDA’s claims, MDA cited its own definitions, which TOC Ltd said suggested that MBC Ltd is a “non-commercial foreign source” simply because it is “a not-for-profit private company”.
TOC Ltd said that this contradicted company laws in the UK, where MBC Ltd was registered.
“We also note that MDA has not indicated which part of Singapore law identifies “foreign not-for-profit companies” as “non-commercial foreign sources”, including any limitations on their right to pay for advertising,” wrote director Howard Lee in the company’s latest letter to MDA yesterday, 24 March.
Mr Lee also said MDA has not clarified on why the authority took so long to declare the funds inappropriate, especially since TOC Ltd had declared the funds as foreign in origin way back in May 2015.
“It behooves MDA to respond to TOC Ltd’s quarterly declaration, by raising any objections to funding in a timely manner so as not to cause prejudice to TOC Ltd’s operations.”
However, MDA said that “there was no need” for it to inform TOC Ltd early as “MBC Ltd was clearly a “foreign source”” and “as such the three-month period (within which to inform TOC Ltd to return the funds) does not apply”.
TOC Ltd also questioned the MDA on its intent in implementing the licencing regime.
“To claim that “it is the responsibility of a licensee to ensure that it does not accept any funding that is in breach of the terms of its class licence” when it is in fact MDA that seeks to impose such licensing requirements, suggests that MDA’s intention is to impose censorship through excessively onerous subsidiary legislation.”
The licensing regime, which falls under the Broadcasting Act, had received much criticism from the FreeMyInternet group when it was imposed on this The Independent and Breakfast Network in December 2013 for the agency’s “foreign funding obsession” and “inability to grasp the realities of how online media functions”.
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