SINGAPORE: The Opinion Collaborative Ltd (TOC Ltd) has been ordered by the Media Development Authority (MDA) to return advertising revenue received from a foreign company – the first time a registered website operator in Singapore has been directed to do so.
Overseas entity Monsoons Book Club had paid S$5,000 on Apr 10 last year to advertise on The Online Citizen (TOC), a sociopolitical website operated by TOC Ltd, MDA said in its press release on Friday (Mar 4).
TOC Ltd is registered under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification as an "Internet content provider engaged in the propagation, promotion or discussion of political issues relating to Singapore". As part of the registration, TOC had undertaken not to receive funding from foreign sources for the provision, management and/or operation of the website, except for bona fide commercial purposes, MDA said.
MBC is a non-commercial foreign entity incorporated in the United Kingdom. "TOC Ltd's receipt of the advertising revenue from MBC is thus a clear breach of the licence conditions," MDA said.
TOC Ltd has to return the advertising revenue within 30 days, the regulator said.
MDA added that while TOC Ltd announced last December it had de-linked from The Online Citizen website, TOC Ltd remains the registered entity and is accountable for any funds it received for the website.
In response to queries, TOC said the money in question was handed over to TOC Ltd for the purpose of organising an essay competition in the name of the Monsoons Book Club. "TOC was not the recipient of the money. TOC will leave to TOCL to explain how the money was used," said TOC chief editor Terry Xu.
He added that MDA was informed of the split between TOCL and TOC on Oct 18, 2015.