From ‘MDA asks website mothership.sg to register for licence’, 3 April 2014, article by Robin Chan, ST
Social news website Mothership.sg has become the latest to be asked by the Media Development Authority to register with it, which prohibits it from receiving foreign funding. Mothership has four full-time staff, counts former foreign minister George Yeo as a contributor, and is backed by a social enterprise known as Project Fisher-Men, which is chaired by civil service veteran Philip Yeo.
In a statement on Thursday, the Media Development Authority (MDA) said it had notified Project Fisher-Men on March 27, to register under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification, which was enacted under Section 9 of the Broadcasting Act.
The MDA said it had assessed that the website meets the registration criteria and it must register by April 11. This is as it promotes or discusses political issues relating to Singapore, and is “structured as a corporate entity which is deemed to be more susceptible to coming under foreign influence through foreign funding“.
Holy Mother of Mercy! MDA on the licensing warpath yet again!
When Mothership was publicised by the ST in Feb this year (Social news website Mothership brings home discussion on Singapore, 3 Feb 2014), it was touted as the Singapore version of Buzzfeed. Backed by the likes of original social media advocate George Yeo and consisting of ex-Ministry men such as Jonathan Lim (MICA) and former PMO civil servant Martino Tan (who set up PM Lee’s Facebook page), it has all the makings of a casual yet Government-friendly portal, an alternative to ‘alternative media’. Executive director Lien We King is also an ardent supporter of George Yeo, and was among those helping the ex-minister collect presidential election eligibility forms back in 2011. ‘Foreign influence’ therefore seems to be the last thing MDA should worry about. In fact, there’s something so grounded and familial about Mothership that calling itself ‘Fathership’ as in ‘founding father’ wouldn’t be too off the mark either.
The odd man out, curiously, is New Nation’s Belmont Lay, who used to be Opposition candidate Nicole Seah’s campaign manager. New Nation is, of course, the satire site notorious for taking the monkey out of MDA. A post titled ‘MDA required to obtain $5 million licence from New Nation’ mocks the agency as ‘Murder Decimate Arserape‘. In an article written in his personal capacity, Belmont dished out some pro-tips on how to deal with the MDA’s licensing scheme, among which include:
There is no better way to deal with the licensing scheme than to act as if there is no licensing scheme. That would really show them.
Well now it’s the Mothership’s turn to be at the receiving end of the Mother of all arserapes. I wonder how the Mothership, with Belmont’s expert guidance, can steer itself out of this shit. Perhaps good ol’ George, chairman of Kerry Logistics, can help them out with the $50,000 ‘performance bond’.
So I’m guessing the real reason why Mothership is getting buggered by MDA is not so much about its content or the risk of it being hijacked by anti-Singapore propagandists, but because having shackled the likes of The Independent and bringing about the unfortunate demise of Breakfast Network, this move seems out to show detractors that MDA is ‘fair’ is its implementation of licensing requirements, that even ‘pro-government’ sites which can list 48 wonderful things to ‘feel for Singapore’ are not exempt from registration.
In short, it’s an attempt at consolation for the brute high-handedness delivered on the real rogue sites out there. You know, like a mother refusing to show favoritism by lashing both the good and bad kid with the same whip. Still, here’s hoping Mothership continues onwards with its maiden voyage despite this MDA setback, a lone fairy godmother hovering over this vast wasteland of debauched ‘alternative media’, lactating her warm, wholesome chicken soup of feel-good Singapore stories upon us all.
So when’s your turn to join the fray, The Real Singapore?
Postscript: Mothership decided to register with the Grandaddy that is MDA after all, agreeing to ‘comply with all laws, rules, regulations and codes of practice’. Not one voice of protest in the team, taking it gamely like gentlemen. Mother Father Gentlemen.