Guide to Starting a Publishing Business in Singapore

1. Procedures for Setting up a Publishing Business in Singapore

Step 1: Incorporate a Company

The first step towards conducting business as a publishing business in Singapore is to incorporate a company.

Step 2: Look for a Suitable Premise

Once you’re done with incorporating your business, it’s time to head out and find suitable premises. There are a variety of office options in Singapore; just find the one that best suits your publishing business need and budget. If you are going to use your residential property as an office, you’ll need to seek approval from the URA (Urban Development Authority) or the HDB (Housing Development Board), depending on whether your residential property is private property or public housing.

Step 3: Hire Staff

To get your publishing business up and running, you’ll need staff. Your staff will be filling in the roles of editorial team members, sales and marketing officers, as well as circulation officers. If you wish to hire foreign staff, you will need to ensure that you secure the appropriate work permit.

Step 4: Apply for Licenses and Permits

So you’ve incorporated your company. Now you’ll have to check to see whether you need or more of the licenses mentioned in Section 2 below.

2. License and Permits for Publishing Business in Singapore
(1) Newspaper Permit

You’ll need a Newspaper Permit if you are:

(a) Printing or publishing a newspaper in Singapore. Newspaper in this case refers to any form of publication that contain news, report of any occurrences, intelligence or any observations or commentaries in relation to such news, intelligence or reports of occurrences (or just any other matter of public interest), which is printed in any language and is published for either sale, or for free distribution, at regular intervals or otherwise. Newspapers may also include publications such as: dailies, annual reports, directories, company/society in-house newsletters and so on. Government publications or publications for the Government are not considered newspapers.

(b) Selling or distributing an offshore newspaper in Singapore. To qualify as an offshore newspaper, the newspaper in question has to be a weekly newspaper that is published outside Singapore, one that carries news/reports on politics and current affairs of any country in Southeast Asia, and also possessing a circulation amount of 300 or more copies in Singapore.

(c) Selling or distributing a Malaysian newspaper in Singapore.

Note: A newspaper permit is not required for publication of novels or one-off commemorative pamphlets.

The Newspaper Permit can be obtained from the MDA (Media Development Authority of Singapore).

How to Apply for your Newspaper Permit:

I. The owner or Chief Editor of the newspaper/publication must apply form to the Registrar of Newspapers, accompanied by the support documents below:

 A sample copy of recent issues. This will be needed if the publication is a current affairs news magazine, fashion magazine, entertainment and leisure magazine, lifestyle magazine, recreational or performing arts magazine, women’s magazine or tourist guide.
 A copy of the owner or Chief Editors FIN (Foreign Identification Number) document and passport, if the owner or Chief Editor is a foreigner residing in Singapore.
 A valid copy of the KDN (Kementerian Dalam Negeri) Permit, with an expiry date of more than 3 months as at the date of application Plus t2 copies each the 3 more recent issues of the newspaper, if the newspaper is published and printed in Malaysia.
 A Letter of Authorization, if the applicant is a third-party.

II. There is no fee involved in obtaining the Newspaper Permit. However, if you’re interested in the publication of offshore newspapers, you’ll have to have a bank guarantee of SGD 200,000.
III. Expect to wait around 15 business days for the application process. If successful, you’ll receive the Newspaper Permit, which will be issued with 1-year validity.
IV. The Newspaper Permit is non-transferable. Should there be any change in the permit holders, nature of contents of the newspaper, or the name of the newspaper or the language or frequency of publication, a new permit will have to be obtained, with the new permit reflecting those changes.
V. Upon obtaining the permit, you will have three months to publish the first issue. After that, two copies of every single issue of the publication have to be submitted to the Registrar of Newspapers.

(2) Printing Press License

You’ll need a Printing Press License from the Registrar of Newspapers if you plan to operate a press to print any sort of publication in Singapore.

How to Apply for Printing Press License:

I. Before you go applying for the Printing Press License, you’ll have to ensure that:
 The URA approves your chosen premises for the running of a printing press.
 Your business must already be registered with the ACRA (the Singapore Companies Registrar).

II. To apply for the Printing Press License, you’ll need to fill in and submit the application form to the Registrar of Newspapers, accompanied by the support documents below:
 A Letter of Authorization if the applicant is a third-party.
 Documentary proof from the Chief Inspector of Factories, stating that your chosen premises are suitable and approved for the running of a printing press. This will be required if the premises where the printing press will be situated in is different from the registered company’s address with ACRA.

III. There is no fee involved in obtaining the Printing Press License.
IV. Expect to wait around 3 business days for the application process. If successful, you’ll receive the Printing Press License, which will be issued with 1-year validity.
V. The Printing Press License is non-transferable. If there be any change in the owner of the license, or of the location where the printing press is situated, a new license will have to be obtained.

(3) Online Publishing License

Under the Singapore Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, no permit is required for the online publication of periodicals. However, if you’re an Internet content provider who publishes an online newspaper based on subscription fees or a provider who publishes information on the Internet, you’ll have to go to the MDA (Media Development Authority) to register yourself.

You will have to complete the registration process by a submitting a form to the MDA and you’ll have to do all this within 14 days of the commencement of your online publication service. All details and particulars of the publisher, their business incorporation and website particulars as well as the nature, language and other details of the publication in question will have to be provided to the MDA during this registration process. The applicants who register must either be the executive editor, the managing editor, or any other person who is in charge of controlling the online publication’s various policies.