MDA removes Arts Term Licensing from proposed amendments to bill

MDA removes Arts Term Licensing from proposed amendments to bill

Neither will the authority be implementing a pilot run of the scheme, which had been set to roll out in July. Instead, the status quo will remain: the MDA will assess each production from its 80 active licensees (which includes both arts groups and other event organisers) and give them age-appropriate advisories or ratings.

Get the full story from The Straits Times.

45 arts groups reject MDA licensing scheme
By Helmi Yusof
The Business Times
Saturday, 31 May 2014

A total of 45 arts organisations - including the most established and respected in the arts industry - have signed a position paper rejecting the Media Development Authority's new Arts Term Licensing Scheme.

The new scheme aims to forge a co-regulatory partnership with the arts sector by allowing organisations to classify their own performances.

Several of the country's top arts practitioners - including Cultural Medallion recipients Ivan Heng, T Sasitharan and Ong Keng Sen {SEE CORRECTION ABOVE} - have signed the paper, under their respective organisations, describing the new scheme as "problematic" and "damaging to the arts industry".

Said TheatreWorks managing director Tay Tong: "The scheme, in effect, creates mini-MDAs within each arts organisation."

Currently, arts and entertainment organisers have to apply for individual licences for each performance or event, and the classification of the content is undertaken by MDA.

With the new scheme, however, MDA wants to "empower" organisers by allowing them to classify their performances themselves. This is done through the appointment of a representative from each organisation who will undergo training in classification and become a "content assessor". He or she will then advise the respective organisation on how to rate its content.

Artists, however, have signalled strong objections against the idea of classification being carried out by one of their own. Many feel that the burden of self-censorship would hamper their creative expression and build tension within their own organisation arising from possible conflicts between the "content assessor" and the creative team.

Furthermore, they baulked at what they feel are punitive consequences arising from misclassifying their performances. According to the proposed rules, a misclassification by the "content assessor" can result in a conviction and a fine of as much as $5,000.

"It implies artists are criminals," said playwright and director Chong Tze Chien.

"No other developed nation in the world classifies the performing arts in such a manner," said The Necessary Stage's artistic director Alvin Tan. "Classifications are usually reserved for TV and films - but not for the arts."

Other artists say that the terms used by MDA such as "co-regulation" and "self-classification" are misleading because the "content assessor" is simply following MDA's criteria, which many artists say they have little or no input.

Even though organisations can choose to opt out of the scheme and continue to have their content rated under the current system, artists say that the new scheme misses the opportunity to allow dialogues to take place regularly between artists and audiences over sensitive content.

The paper was submitted yesterday, the last day of MDA's public consultation period before the Bill is tabled in Parliament. Other organisations that signed it include Wild Rice, Singapore Dance Theatre, the Theatre Practice, the Finger Players, the Substation, the Singapore Repertory Theatre and Pangdemonium.

MDA's Chetra Sinnathamby, director of Content and Standards (Films, Video Games & Arts), said: "MDA would like to emphasise that the Term Licensing Scheme is optional. Those who choose to participate in the scheme enjoy cost and time savings . . . MDA conducts comprehensive public surveys and works with its citizen-based consultative committees and the industry to establish content guidelines."

This article was first published on May 31, 2014.
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