TOC becomes the first website in Singapore forced to return its ad revenue

The Opinion Collaborative (TOC), former owner of a Singapore socio-political website, The Online Citizen, has returned the SGD $5,000 of advertising revenue it received from UK-based Monsoons Book Club (MBC), after it was ordered to do so by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

This is the first time a registered website in Singapore has been asked to return its advertising revenue.

IMDA, a statutory board under the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), accused TOC of going against licensing conditions that prevents organisations registered under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification from receiving foreign funds, unless its for ‘bona fide commercial purposes’.

MBC had provided the money for a sponsorship deal for an online essay competition on The Online Citizen, claimed TOC. However, its explanation was rejected and it was subsequently given 30 days to return the money.

MCI meanwhile, said the evidence submitted by TOC showed that the firm was aware of the restrictions on foreign funding, but had "structured the transfer of $5,000 in order to circumvent these, by making it look like bona fide commercial advertising".