By Choo Zheng Xi/co-Founder, TOC

If you’re reading this article, I want you to know that the new MDA licensing regime could potentially affect you.

If you read practically anything online, the licensing regime is likely to affect the content you view and the independence with which it is written.

If you run a website, you better hope that it doesn’t hit the magic 50,000 viewership number, unless you have a spare 50k you’d like to burn.

Under the catch-all provision of the new licensing regime, practically anyone whose website hits 50,000 views will potentially be asked to pay the performance bond, as long as you also post one “Singapore news programme” every week.

So, what is the definition of a “Singapore news programme”?

Congratulations, you’re regulated

The definition of a “Singapore news programme” under the licensing regime is so broad as to be completely ridiculous.

Under the gazette notice, a “Singapore news programme” is defined as literally everything to do with Singapore:

“any programme (whether or not the programme is presenter-based and whether or not the programme is provided by a third party) containing any news, intelligence, report of occurrence, or any matter of public interest, about any social, economic, political, cultural, artistic, sporting, scientific or any other aspect of Singapore in any language (whether paid or free and whether at regular intervals or otherwise) but does not include any programme produced by or on behalf of the Government”.

So, any celebrity, food and movie review blogger with more than 50,000 unique views a month would fall under the definition of carrying Singapore news programmes.

If you run a website that links to news, you’re caught too.

Under the regulations, it doesn’t matter that you’re not the creator of the content; the definition of “programme” encompasses material provided by a third party.

And this catch-all provision is being arbitrarily applied.

MDA has randomly applied their new regulations, with absolutely no basis to the manner in which they have chosen the first 10 websites.

Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim has maintained complete opacity in how the regulations will apply, saying only: “We will continue to monitor the sites like we do now as part of our job and we will monitor their reach and content. If they cross the two thresholds, we’ll call them up and tell them they have to be licensed”.

So, under the blunderbuss definition that is now law in Singapore, only 10 websites in Singapore qualify?

That’s blatantly incorrect, as objective statistics of TOC’s viewership shows we’re far in excess of 50,000 unique viewers from Singapore a month.

So, it looks like MDA has chosen to dangle the sword of regulation over our heads while being as vague as possible about when they will use it.

One might be forgiven for thinking that the object of the licensing regime is to instill fear and obedience in the rest of the blogosphere, to cow independent websites and bloggers into submission by the threat of licensing.

P.s: MDA has curtailed your constitutional rights

But here’s the thing that should get you angry. Really angry.

For all the government’s talk about the “new normal” and the Singapore Conversation, these sweeping regulations were passed without an iota of public consultation. It wasn’t even given the legitimacy of a debate in Parliament.

The licensing regime was snuck into subsidiary legislation like a thief in the night.

Our Constitution, which is supposed to be the highest law of our land, guarantees “freedom of speech, assembly and association” and allows Parliament to restrict those freedoms only if it is necessary and expedient in very limited circumstances such as the interests of the security of Singapore, maintaining diplomatic relations and public order or morality.

To MDA, the Constitution apparently needs to bend its knee before the arbitrary and sweeping exercise of MDA’s regulatory authority.

The MDA has stolen a march on our constitutional protections by relying on its authority to make subsidiary legislation under the Broadcasting Act.

If this is the modus operandi of the new normal, we need to be very afraid.

The door is now open for other constitutional rights to be chipped away by subsidiary legislation masquerading as regulatory “guidelines”.


The new licensing regime has been compared to the introduction of the amendments to the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act in 1986 to bring foreign publications to heel.

The comparison falls short: the scope and audacity with which the present licensing regime presumes to be introduced makes the press laws of the 80s pale in comparison.

In 1986, there was debate, consultation and even Law Society input (and opposition).

Today, the new licensing regime is a fait accompli with not a squeak of public debate.

Now, the only option that remains is this: whether you’re a consumer or creator of online work, if you’re a Singaporean you need to push for the license gazette to be withdrawn.

A group of bloggers has gotten the ball rolling by putting our voices together in protest, but the snowball needs to be turned into an avalanche of protest for our voices to be heard.

Our call to action will issue soon.




Freedom of speech, assembly and association


—(1)  Subject to clauses (2) and (3) —

(a) every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression;

(b) all citizens of Singapore have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms; and

(c) all citizens of Singapore have the right to form associations.

(2)  Parliament may by law impose —


on the rights conferred by clause (1)(a), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof, friendly relations with other countries, public order or morality and restrictions designed to protect the privileges of Parliament or to provide against contempt of court, defamation or incitement to any offence;


on the right conferred by clause (1)(b), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof or public order; and


on the right conferred by clause (1)(c), such restrictions as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore or any part thereof, public order or morality.

(3)  Restrictions on the right to form associations conferred by clause (1) (c) may also be imposed by any law relating to labour or education.

Freedom of religion


—(1)  Every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and to propagate it.

(2)  No person shall be compelled to pay any tax the proceeds of which are specially allocated in whole or in part for the purposes of a religion other than his own.

(3)  Every religious group has the right —

(a) to manage its own religious affairs;

(b) to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes; and

(c) to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with law.

(4)  This Article does not authorise any act contrary to any general law relating to public order, public health or morality.

Rights in respect of education

You May Also Like

【选举】陈振声反驳没“空头支票” 称行动党“需为国人负责”

行动党两名原部长:陈振声和英兰妮称,行动党并没有“为所欲为的口头支票”,须为国人负责。 他们是针对工人党盛港集选区候选人林志蔚,于周三(7月1日)的电视直播辩论中,促请我国选民投票给工人党,并拒绝行动党“口头支票”一说,这么表示。 陈振声在接受《海峡时报》采访时指出,这并非本届大选的正确描述,并补充行动党会对选民、对人民的福祉负责。“在治理方面,行动党始终为人民负责,无论是选举(时期)与否。” “我不认为有空白支票这回事,就好像行动党可以不负责地做任何事情。我不认为这是正确的描述。我们所做的每一件事、每一个脚步,都要为新加坡人、他们的福祉和他们的安宁生活负责,我们必须为国家的持续发展负责。” 陈振声与英兰妮,以及行动党新人陈圣辉及蔡瑞隆,在丹戎巴葛集选区上阵。 林志蔚于周三的辩论上指出,行动党辩称选举其实是赋予他们权利,让国家摆脱次困境,而且他们需要被委托才能这么做。“事实上,在选举结束前,行动党可能就已有了这个权利……我们不是否认行动党已经被授权,而是否认他们可能会为所欲为。” 以非选区议员制度进行牵制 英兰妮同时也引述非选区议员的存在,来反驳林志蔚的说法:“行动党永远没有空白支票,因为不管发生什么事情,宪法保证了至少有12个反对议席”。 她补充道,非选区议员具有和议员一样的投票权,即表示他们可以对宪法修正案、补助和金钱法案,以及信任票等课题上都有投票权。 我国在1984年采用非选区议员制度,以确保国会内拥有最少人数的反对党成员,而在大选中获得最高票数的反对派候选人将可成为非选区议员。非选区议员制度在2016年经过修改,被赋予更多权力,并从原本的九人增加到12人。 这12人中可以包括胜选议员或非选区议员。这也表示,若胜选的反对党议员超过12人,那么就不会有非选区议员的席位。 英兰妮随后在脸书上帖文补充道,虽然保证了反对党议席,却不能保证“拥有明确授权的强而有力政府,去执行任务以度过难关”。“这些(选择)都在选民的手中。”…

Man falls onto roof of garbage truck, pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene

A 51-year-old man was found motionless on the top of a garbage…

Lee Hsien Yang questions AGC’s need to waste public resources on a private matter

On 10 January, Lee Hsien Yang (LHY) took to his personal Facebook…