Singapore's government has appointed 17 people from various fields to sit on a committee that has been tasked with updating policies on censorship of the media and the arts.
Goh Yew Lin, chairman of Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music is the chairman of the Censorship Review Committee (CRC).
Sixteen others representing a cross-section of the society have been appointed as members of the committee. They include people from the arts and media sector; the community and social sector; and various professions, said a statement from the Ministry
of Information, Communication and the Arts.
The independent committee has been set up to conduct a mid-term review of content issues across the spectrum of broadcast, films, videos, publications, audio materials, the arts and new media.
It will look largely at issues that have been raised by the industry players during their regular dialogues with the Media Development Authority and from community feedback. These include the fine-tuning of current film and video classifications; sale
and distribution of videos; and content issues related to entertainment and lifestyle publications.
The review will also examine how media convergence is testing traditional content regulation concepts and whether new content codes are necessary to guide the emergence of new technologies and new media platforms.
The terms of reference of the committee are:
To recommend refinements to existing content standards and guidelines to reflect societal and technological changes since the last CRC, while recognising the need to protect the young and respect racial, religious and social sensitivities.
To study whether there is a need to introduce additional content standards and guidelines that would be relevant to the emergence of new technologies and new media platforms.
To recommend ways to encourage industry players, community and artists to be involved in co-regulation of media content and classification.
To recommend avenues to improve community engagement and public education in content standards and guidelines.
The committee will target to complete the review and submit its report and recommendations to the Government by mid-2010.
The Censorship Review Committee has issued its report after nearly a year of
Among its recommendations are mandatory Internet filters to give parents more control and responsibility over what their children can access online. Filtering services are currently available through Internet Service Providers SingTel and StarHub but there has been minimal marketing and take-up of these services
, said the report.
The committee said these filters should be easy to understand, requiring parents only to answer a yes or no .
The filters would replace the current symbolic ban on 100 websites, but the government should retain the power to ban websites that are seen as a threat to national security, for example, terrorism and extreme racial or religious hate sites.
These efforts should be complemented by a cyber wellness programme that is incorporated into the national educational curriculum.
R21 films may soon make their way to local cinemas as well as DVDs and pay TV, if
recommendations by the Censorship Review Committee (CRC) are accepted by the Government.
The CRC report called for relaxation in content and regulation standards, given that technological changes are undermining the old ways of restricting content. With more content streaming through the Internet, the existing media regulations will become
less effective. Responsibility must shift to individuals and parents, who must be empowered to make choices for themselves and for their children.
The panel, a state-appointed group of 17 people, was convened to review current censorship regulations across media such as films, videos and publications, as well as the arts. It is chaired by Goh Yew Lin, chairman of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory.
In a bold suggestion that may raise eyebrows, the panel wants R21 content to be made available on more platforms - at home and in local cinemas, the panel has recommended that videos may be sold in video stores, provided the industry can enforce the
restriction of sale to minors.
It also suggests that R21 content be available on subscription TV and video-on-demand with a default parental lock.
Making a case for easing of R21 content, the committee's report said: Where consumers have the ability to exercise controlled choice, as is the case with video-on-demand, R21 content should be permitted. However, its introduction should be carefully
calibrated, and only allowed if there are adequate safeguards in place to prevent access by minors .
The commitee also recommended that a new PG13 rating be introduced to 'provide a stronger signal to parents on the nature of the content and to facilitate appropriate rating of films with some mature content.
The CRC has submitted its report to Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, which is expected to respond in a month's time.
Singapore's Censorship Review Committee is recommending that the country become slightly less buttoned up and that content regulation become more pragmatic.
The committee, which spent nearly a year deliberating, recommends the introduction of a new PG-13 film classification.
Explaining the idea of a PG-13 category Vijay Chandra, chairman of the Films Consultative Panel, said that The Dark Knight was rated PG, meaning that even primary school age children could watch it, although its violence may have upset parents.
However, he said that an NC-16 rating would have been unwarranted.
As a consequence of the result of a PG-13 rating being introduced, Chandra said that the average PG film would then become milder and more innocuous.
In total the committee made some 80 recommendations – including dropping the word censorship from the title of future review committees – to the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. The ministry is expected to respond within a month.
The Singapore government has partially relaxed television broadcast guidelines
allowing cable operators to screen movies containing nude scenes or explicit violence.
By the end of next year, cable operators will be able to offer Restricted 21 (R21) movies to pay-to-view subscribers, the ministry for information, communications and the arts (MICA) said in its 2010 censorship review.
Under the new guidelines, cinemas located in downtown Singapore can continue to screen R21-rated movies such as Hollywood's gay biopic Milk [rated 15 in the UK] .
But a ban on showing R21 movies remains in suburban cinemas, the ministry said.
Lui Tuck Yew, MICA's acting minister, said the new guidelines will offer more choices to adults while allowing parents more control to protect their children from explicit violence and sex: We decided that we ought to be governed by the
principle that you make it available in a way where the adult, and especially the parent, will be in a position to exercise greatest control. And so the home environment was the one that we picked. And for those who want to watch it in cinema...
it is only a 30-minute bus ride away or less.
There will be the necessary parental locks and other safeguards in place to restrict access to children and television viewers aged 20 or younger, Lui said.
Update: PG-13 accepted but not an end to internet blocking
Singapore has resisted calls from a government-appointed panel to liberalize the symbolic 100-website ban, a government minister
The government wants to increase content choices for adults ... BUT ... prevailing societal values need to be upheld, said Lui Tuck Yew, acting Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts.
That means the government will still block access to 100 pornographic and extremist websites, Lui said at a news conference.
We should move with, rather than ahead of, society, he said, adding that the panel's public survey found that 67% of respondents wanted to keep or expand the website ban.
The website ban will be kept as a symbolic statement of our society's values, Lui said, adding that internet service providers will be asked to actively market content filters to users.
Asked if the retention of certain bans reflected the continuation of government paternalism, Lui said it didn't: I don't believe that retaining (a ban on) 100 websites shows that we are nannified . He noted that Australia is proposing a
wider ban on undesirable websites: Nobody calls them a nanny state. [The Melon Farmers Do!].
The government accepted the new PG13 movie rating though.