Self-classification scheme for arts groups to be tested

Graffiti mural at the Substation. Mr Noor Effendy Ibrahim, artistic director of the arts venue, said that more dialogue, open channels and conversation rather than a directive were welcome.

SINGAPORE - A proposed scheme that empowers arts groups to classify their own performances will be piloted in the second quarter.

This is to test the processes and allow arts groups to clarify issues before the scheme is formally launched by the Media Development Authority (MDA), said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim in Parliament on Tuesday.

"We envisage that term licensees and their content assessors will need time to familiarise themselves to self-classifying their performance," he added.

Around the same time, there will be a public consultation on the amendment Bill which will pave the way for the scheme to be enacted.

Dr Yaacob was responding to a question from Nominated MP Janice Koh, who had asked for updates on the term licensing scheme.

The scheme was announced last March. It is seen as a first step towards co-regulation between the MDA and the arts sector, taking into account societal norms, and will divide arts groups into two tiers.

Tier 1 groups can self-classify performances with a General rating and without racial, religious or political content. Tier 2 licensees can self-classify performances up to the Restricted 18 rating.

So far, arts groups have asked if such licensing would result in self-censorship, and parents have expressed concern that it may mean a relaxation of standards.

When asked by Ms Koh about possible disagreements over classifications, Dr Yaacob said the authorities will be reasonable and fair in assessing the decision.

He also gave the assurance that they would be flexible and "understand the context in which (the disagreement) took place".

If there are complaints about classifications from the public, MDA will also consult widely, including even the arts group in question, the minister said.

"We want the arts groups to work together with us to ensure a vibrant arts scene which meets societal norms and standards.

"Even after we've formally launched the scheme, our doors are not closed. They can continue to consult MDA if they're not confident about classifying," he said.

Mr Noor Effendy Ibrahim, artistic director of arts venue the Substation, said that more dialogue, open channels and conversation rather than a directive or immediate action were welcome.

Other agencies need to be on the same page as the ministry and the MDA, he added, pointing out that this was pertinent whether a complaint was made to, for example, the MDA, National Arts Council or the police.

"If not, just because of one complaint, each agency may have a different measure and some will react calmly or with a more knee-jerk reaction than others," he said.

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