CNA: New Censorship Review Committee to look into content issues across all media

22 May 2009
Channel NewsAsia
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New Censorship Review Committee to look into content issues across all media

SINGAPORE: An independent Censorship Review Committee will be appointed to conduct a mid—term review of content issues across the spectrum of broadcast, films, videos, publications, audio materials, the arts and new media.

If filmmaker Tan Pin Pin could have her way, she would like the ban on the use of dialects to be lifted or reviewed.

And the re—classification of film and video content by age, instead of genre like political, nudity, violence and homosexual themes.

She said: “Rather than to ban films, just classify it. Because when you ban something, you actually just close the conversation. When the new committee starts convening I hope they’ll see themselves as cultivators rather than nannies of Singapore. By cultivators, I mean that they are people who will cultivate Singaporeans as we grow up and become more mature and when we are more mature we can decide for ourselves.”

Previous Censorship Review Committees were convened every 10 years to look at content issues extensively and comprehensively. The last review was done in 2003.

The ministry said conducting a review after a shorter interval will enable MICA and the Media Development Authority to respond in a more timely manner to issues arising from the rapidly—changing media environment and social changes.

The chairman and members of the new Censorship Review Committee, as well as the scope of their work will be announced later.

But content issues on the Internet and new media are likely to feature prominently.

Choo Zheng Xi, editor, The Online Citizen, said: “Something I hope the review commission keeps in mind is whether censorship and filtration is practical in the age of the Internet. I hope they take into consideration the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media, or AIMS’ request that the symbolic ban on the 100 websites is abolished.

“I hope they pleasantly surprise me by rolling back and rethinking a lot of the censorship guidelines in the mainstream media but in terms of what’s going on on the Internet, in practice, nothing much is going to change.

“The problem with the current regulatory system is that it’s so vague and arbitrary that even people who are practitioners and who study these regulations don’t really even know what they are about.

“So in my opinion the best way forward is repealing Section 33 of the Films Act on political films and fundamentally reconsidering the Class Licence Scheme which deems all local websites to be automatically licensed and requires content providers of political and religious websites to register with the Media Development Authority of Singapore.”

The ministry said the media landscape has changed dramatically over the past six years.

And the question is how to update content regulations and policies to give Singaporeans more choices in content without compromising the nation’s harmony, social cohesion and family values.

The new Censorship Review Committee will also look at the implication of the convergence of multiple media platforms. The new committee starts work by the third quarter of this year and will complete its work by the middle of 2010.

Besides appointing this committee, other plans by the ministry include a Cyber Museum in 2010 where users will be invited to virtually ’curate’ their own exhibition based on the artworks and artefacts from Singapore’s national collection.

There will also be a new library in Clementi and the Orchard Library which used to be at Ngee Ann City will now be relocated to the new Specialists Shopping Centre.

The National Library Board will also develop a repository of Singapore’s digital content that Singaporeans can access on—the—go through their mobile devices. — CNA/vm

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