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New video rejects MDA’s self-regulation scheme

SINGAPORE — Arts Engage, a network of arts practitioners in Singapore, has released a video denouncing the Media Development Authority’s (MDA) proposed Arts Term Licensing Scheme, which aims to let practitioners classify their own performances.

SINGAPORE — Arts Engage, a network of arts practitioners in Singapore, has released a video denouncing the Media Development Authority’s (MDA) proposed Arts Term Licensing Scheme, which aims to let practitioners classify their own performances.

The video features appearances by arts practitioners, including Cultural Medallion winners Goh Lay Kuan, Santha Bhaskar and Ivan Heng, and discusses the scheme’s potential effects on Sing­apore audiences.

This video follows Arts Engage’s position paper released in May, which also described the scheme as damaging to the arts industry. The network said more than 54 arts groups and 255 individuals have endorsed the position paper, calling for further dialogue and a delay on the tabling of the scheme in Parliament. 

“We made the video to raise awareness and educate the public about the harmful ramifications of a scheme we all unequivocally reject,” Mr Heng, who is also artistic director at W!LD RICE, told TODAY. “To roll out the scheme without any changes or further consultation would be to ignore the stakeholders and amounts to bad policymaking.”

When contacted, the MDA declined to comment.

Currently, arts groups apply for an individual licence two months before a performance, with the MDA classifying the content. Under the proposed scheme, those who choose the scheme will be categorised into two tiers. Groups under Tier 1 can self-classify works with a General rating — but unscripted performances, or those touching on race, religion or politics, will still have to be submitted to the MDA for an event-based licence.

Tier 2 groups, which will be determined by the MDA after assessing the groups’ track record, can self-classify up to a Restricted 18 rating. Self-classification for their performances will be done by representatives from the groups, who will be trained by the MDA as content assessors.

“This whole censorship thing does not affect only me — it affects my family and other people,” said theatre actress Karen Tan, who appears in the video with her daughters. 

“It affects the way my daughters are going to be growing up and thinking. If you censor, you prevent my daughters from making decisions about what they see and what they don’t want to see, making decisions about what they do eventually watch or read or listen to, or making intelligent, educated responses for themselves." 

The proposed scheme was first announced last year, together with other amendments to the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act. The MDA wrapped up its public consultations on May 30. 

The scheme, which is optional, is slated to roll out next year, with a pilot run set for this month.

 

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