#FreeMyInternet: "More clarity, consultation needed on Broadcasting Act"

By Terry Xu

#FreeMyInternet has issued a statement in response to the comments made by Aubeck Kam, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Communications and Information, during the forum organised by the Singapore Computer Society yesterday to discuss the Media Development Authority’s amendment to the Broadcasting Act.

The forum was reported in mainstream media channels, and was also witnessed by some advocates of #FreeMyInternet.

Media reports of the forum indicated that the government is examining issues around the liability of the licensed news websites for third-party content.

“#FreeMyInternet is heartened that MDA and MCI have noted one of the many issues outlined in our policy brief. We hope that they will continue to take a serious look at MDA’s amendment to the Act in its entirety, and reach the conclusion that a complete revocation is inevitable,” said the group in response.

However, the group was less optimistic about other points raised by Mr Kam, specifically to the consultation process with the current 10 licensees under the revised Broadcasting Act.

Mr Kam was quoted as saying: “We are at the stage where the 10 licensees have studied the conditions, and they are giving feedback (on) how can we improve the wording, make it clearer … so that (the licensees) are as clear as possible what the obligation is.”

#FreeMyInternet has indicated in its statement: “We are perturbed as to why MDA and MCI are only consulting the 10 current licensees, when the Act could potentially be applied to other websites at MDA’s choosing. Can the government then confirm that those who are not consulted in the Broadcasting Act will be exempted from the regulation, as their inputs are not deemed relevant? Should MDA and MCI not consult more widely? Given the diversity of online media, #FreeMyInternet continues to recommend that MDA and MCI expand their consultation process to be more inclusive, as outlined in our policy brief.”

The group also noted Mr Kam’s clarification on Part X of the Broadcasting Act, which imposes ownership and management restrictions on online computer sites granted an individual licence.

“Not every licensee that holds an individual license under the Broadcasting Act is subject to ownership restrictions” and “only two changes apply to the individual licensees – they need to take down the infringing content within 24-hours notification, and the performance bond required”, Mr Kam said during the forum, in response to questions on this issue.

“While we appreciate Mr Kam’s clarification about the limits of the new regulation, we have yet to see specific assurance from the government, to be made in Parliament, that Part X would not be invoked against websites licensed under the new regime, since the word of the Broadcasting Act clearly grants the government the right to do so, should it choose to,” indicated #FreeMyInternet.

“It is clear from this forum that more consultation needs to be done and more clarity needs to be provided by MDA and MCI, before this regulation should have been passed. This can only be for the benefit of Internet content providers and readers alike.”

For more information, visit the #FreeMyInternet website and be part of the movement.