Call for boycott of MDA scheme

Call for boycott of MDA scheme
A scene from Dreamplay: Asian Boys Vol 1, starring Caleb Goh (left) and Koey Foo who play men who are persecuted by the Japanese during the Occupation.

SINGAPORE -Artists have responded strongly to the Media Development Authority's (MDA) Arts Term Licensing Scheme, with several calling for a boycott of the plan.

The scheme aims to cut red tape by allowing individuals and companies to self-classify performances with age-appropriate ratings according to MDA guidelines. It kicks off with a pilot run in July. Public consultation for the scheme is ongoing and will close on Friday.

Artists argue that it passes the responsibility of censorship from the MDA to the artist, effectively encouraging self-censorship. They are also wary of penalties they would incur for misclassifying a performance.

Mr T. Sasitharan, a former Cultural Medallion recipient who heads the private Intercultural Theatre Institute, said in an online statement: "All artists should emphatically reject and refuse to participate in the MDA's new self-classification or co-regulation scheme."

Among the reasons he gave is that the scheme "is morally unconscionable because it forces the artist to self-censor", and "it amounts to the state policing the arts by proxy; this is censorship in the guise of regulation, ratings and advisories".

Under the scheme, set to roll out fully early next year, artists can apply for two types of licences. Participation is optional.

Tier 1 licences allow for the self-classification of General-rated performances, suitable for all ages, which made up about 90 per cent of the 1,200 arts entertainment licences MDA issued last year. However, unscripted performances, or those touching on race, religion or politics, will still have to be submitted to the MDA for licensing.

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