Proposal for self-classification dropped by MDA

Proposal for self-classification dropped by MDA

The Media Development Authority (MDA) is dropping a controversial scheme that would have allowed arts groups to give age-appropriate ratings to their own works in line with the authority's classification code.

This comes after arts groups strongly opposed the Arts Term Licensing Scheme when the MDA launched a public consultation exercise on May 12. Artists' network Arts Engage released a position paper detailing its objections on May 30, signed by at least 45 groups.

The MDA is now removing the scheme from its list of proposed amendments to the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act. Nor will it implement a pilot run of the scheme that had been planned for last month.

Instead, the MDA will continue to assess each production from its 80 active licensees, including arts groups and event organisers, and give them advisories or ratings.

Amendments to the Act, to be tabled in Parliament at an unspecified date, include licensing virtual performances the same way as a live event at the same location, and allowing the MDA to investigate arts entertainment breaches instead of subjecting organisers to police action.

On arts term licensing, Ms Koh Lin-Net, chief executive of MDA, said: "We appreciate the very useful dialogues we had with Arts Engage, where we identified areas where we could work even better together. However... we realised that it was not a matter of whether or not the scheme could have been better designed. Rather... there were fundamental differences in views which could not be resolved."

This was in spite of three meetings last month between the MDA, Arts Engage and representatives from arts groups. One difference, she said, was over the current "Not Allowed For All Ratings" category, effectively a ban, which arts groups disagree with. Artists also wanted to be given autonomy in their application of classification guidelines, and took issue with the penalties for "misclassification".

While the scheme would have substantially cut red tape, artists felt that appointing individuals from within the company to do the work of the MDA would prompt self-censorship.

They expressed concern over what they felt was inadequate consultation with artists on classification guidelines, suggesting that the authority delay the scheme's implementation and hold further public engagement.

In its closing statement, the MDA said "classification guidelines need to reflect the social sentiments of the wider community, which may at times run counter to the views of some arts groups". The current guidelines were launched in 2008 and refined last year.

In response, Arts Engage said in a press statement yesterday: "Given that arts groups are meant to be the key beneficiaries of the scheme, (it) should not just be implemented for the sake of administrative convenience, but also seek to protect the creative process and improve the environment for art-making in Singapore."

The MDA is planning to embark on a comprehensive survey - reviewing the standards for classification of arts content - with the results expected to be published in the first half of next year. The findings may influence how it adjusts its guidelines.

Former Arts Nominated MP Janice Koh called the process of engagement between the MDA and artists a "new normal". "It is probably the first time we've had such in-depth discussions on the topic of arts regulation."

She hoped the MDA would conduct a more focused survey of arts audiences and their expectations of ratings and advisories. Arts Engage also recommended that the MDA consider running a pilot of the Arts Term Licensing Scheme that accommodates its main concerns.

A new normal It is probably the first time we've had such in-depth discussions on the topic of arts regulation. - Former Arts Nominated MP Janice Koh

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