A new PG13 rating covering films, television programmes and videos has just come into effect. It was one of the recommendations of the Censorship Review Committee that was accepted by the government last year.
The new PG13 rating indicates content that may not be suitable for children under 13, so parental discretion is advised. These shows have dark themes, some violence, realistic and intense horror, sexual humour and coarse language.
Some films previously rated PG (Parental Guidance) such as Dark Knight and IP Man 2 or NC16 such as Meet the Fockers will fall under the new category, but media regulator Media Development Authority said the numbers will
likely be small.
PG13 will also be the maximum rating for films and dramas on free-to-air television channels, but such content will only be allowed after 10pm.
Broadcaster MediaCorp will screen the first PG13 programme on Channel 5 on July 23 on the making of the series The Walking Dead . The series, which has been edited to fit the PG13 rating.
Last year, the government agreed with the Censorship Review Committee to allow R21 films on the Video-on-Demand service on cable. The Media Development Authority said they will be introduced as soon as it has worked out implementation details,
such as designing parental locks to prevent minors from sneaking a peek.
A new set of film classification symbols is to be introduced in Singapore this June to rate content in film, videos, free-to-air and subscription TV.
The new symbols are to standardise the look in the ratings, said the Media Development Authority (MDA) replacing the current three different sets of rating symbols.
Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew said that the symbols are still under review.
Members of the public can vote for their preferred symbols at roving interactive media exhibits, also known as Media Transformer, at four anchor events islandwide from March 5 to 27.
When queried, MDA said a date to launch the PG13 rating, as recommended by the Censorship Review Committee in September 2010, has yet to be set.
Film Ratings in Singapore
Cinema/video Ratings were introduced in 1991. Previously films were either passed for exhibition to all or else banned.
The ratings are:
G: General: Entertainment suitable for the whole family
PG: Parental Guidance: Suitable for most, but not all ages. Parents should guide their young as some scenes may be disturbing to children.
NC16: No Children Under 16: Not suitable for those below 16 years of age, as the film may contain more explicit scenes. [Introduced in 1993]
M18: Mature 18: For viewers aged 18 and above, these films may contain mature themes which are mire suitable for young adults. [Introduced in 2004]
R21: Restricted 21: These films may contain adult issues, themes and more explicit scenes. [When R18 was introduced, it led to concerns over an influx of sex-exploitative films within the first month of the classification system’s
inception. The rating was modified to R(A) or Restricted Artistic, to signal that only films of artistic merit would be allowed, and the age limit was raised to 21 years. The rating is only available to cinema films].
Singapore's reviled censors call themselves the Board of Film Censors (BFC). At the Media Development Authority I spoke with film classifier Dinesh Pasrasurum.
Movie ratings — which range from G (for general entertainment) to R21 (restricted to those 21 years and above) — that has put the censors in the line of fire of everyone from irate cineastes who discover they’re literally not getting the complete
picture to conservative moralists who kick up a fuss about movies with questionable themes.
While you don’t really need the entire group to give a stamp of approval for Finding Nemo, in cases dealing with touchy subjects such as race, religion, sex, homosexuality and vicious violence, it seems like there’s an awful lot of bureaucratic
consultation going on.
For potentially tricky flicks, the BFC asks the opinions of the Films Consultative Panel, a 60-member group of folks ranging from housewives to lawyers and doctors. They may also decide to consult certain focus groups or ethnic groups. There’s
also a Films Appeal Committee, should a distributor feel unhappy about the rating they end up with.
But there’s a difference between commercial films and ones slated for festivals. Take the case of the on-going Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF). Its history is chockfull of some of the region’s best directors is also dotted with
clashes with censors. This year is no exception. The BFC has banned two films: The Berlin Festival-awarded Shahida , a documentary about female suicide bombers by Natalie Asouline, and the gay coming-of-age story Boy by Filipino
Aureaus Solito, whose film The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros was released commercially here. Four other films garnered an R21 rating with proposed cuts, but because the festival has a (justified) policy of showing only uncut films,
organisers have also pulled them.
According to the BFC, only four films (or 0.5 per cent) were banned in Singapore last year. Compared to the United Kingdom rating of 18, the SIFF film Klass was given an NC16.
The Passion of the Christ got an 18 rating both here and in the UK. Milk , however, was rated R21 in Singapore, R (those under 17 require an accompanying parent or adult guardian) in the United States, and only 15 in the UK.
When asked why violence seems to be more acceptable than sexual issues (both hetero and homosexual ones) in movies, Dinesh said: The cue we’re getting from the community is that in terms of sexuality — or homosexuality, for that matter — the
community is very conservative at the moment. You could say society’s tolerance for violence and coarse language (is higher). But as society progresses and becomes more relaxed with regards to (the former), so will we.