The “Breakfast Network”, a Singaporean political commentary website, is to shut down, after it failed to meet a deadline set by Singapore’s media regulator, the Media Development Authority (MDA), to register.
The requirement for websites to register has been around since May, when the MDA announced that sites reporting on Singapore-related issues and that have a substantial Singapore following would have to obtain a licence and comply with certain new requirements.
The MDA has responded to criticism that the requirements will lead to a higher level of censorship by saying that there will be no change in content standards (and that the intention is not to clamp down on internet freedom) because these services are already subject to existing Class Licence and Internet Code of Practice requirements.
The Breakfast Network founder did, however, feel that the requirement to register (and the associated requirement to undertake not to receive foreign funding for its operation) represented an additional burden that it was unwilling to take on: “The demand to register – or else – has created a wrinkle in our barely-formed plans to become a sustainable and professional outfit. Therefore, we have decided to suspend operations until we have re-strategised or at least till the amendments to the Broadcasting Act are unveiled”.
The Breakfast Network was required to register because, like other sites such as Yahoo Singapore, it fell within the scope of the MDA’s Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification rules.
To recap, there are two characteristics that a site must have in order to be subject to this registration requirement:
First, the site must be visited by at least 50,000 unique Singapore IP addresses per month over a period of two consecutive months. It does not matter if that number reduces once the licence has been issued – once the service is licensed, it will stay licensed for the duration.
Second, the site must report an average of at least one “Singapore news programme” per week over a period of two consecutive months. Again, it does not matter if the average falls below that over time.
On Wednesday evening, the Breakfast Network website was showing a static page announcing “Kitchen Closed”.