By: Ben Matchap
The Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim recently said that the Films Act and the Broadcasting Act will be amended this year to take into account changes in technology. The Minister justified the amendment saying the Government has a duty to ensure content accessible here does not undermine racial and religious harmony or national security.
“People don’t watch movies in the theatres any more. They watch movies in their home, over the Internet, through their TV. How do we ensure the content meets our standards? Those are the things we have to look into.”
The amendment is yet another step in the wrong direction. We are already in the midst of an economic crisis and Singapore needs to move towards a more innovative economy.
Amending the laws on films and broadcast to make sure “the content meets our standards “ is a bad thing. Firstly I am a broadcast media student in singapore and I have to ask, “what standard?”
Lets face it Singapore films and local TV shows have no standard. Yes, Boo Junfeng’s film Apprentice and Ilo Ilo by Anthony Chen have gotten Singapore noticed. It’s great that the films made by Singaporeans have won a few international accolades, but when was the last time our local TV series produced by Mediacorp got sold to an international audience?
So when you say “the content meets our standards” I think you mean the lack of one.
Films and TV shows are a powerful tools to address issues of representation and equality. Take shows like ‘Orange is the New Black’ which features a mostly female cast of many minority races as well as LBGT persons an example. Such shows will never be made in Singapore because we have to comply with the Broadcast Act and pretend like LGBT persons do not exist.
You just have to watch the awkward cuts of scenes involving people of the same sex kissing each other in the TV series ‘Glee’, to appreciate what I mean. Allowing such thing to be shown, will enable the public better understand that LGBT persons exist and aren’t abnormal. And so it would be harder to discriminate or to make threats to shoot them with your army issued gun. (https://theindependent.sg.sg/singaporean-man-threatens-to-open-fire-on-lgbt-in-singapore/)
The reason why people rather watch things online is because MDA does a bad job of giving people what they want. If you are going to censor these things, then never mind I will just watch it online and trust me there is no way to stop people from viewing what they want.
Instead of trying to play nanny (which is the exact opposite of building an innovation driven economy), we should learn to adapt to a changing world and trust that all education our citizens have received will allow them to watch films without going crazy.
We need to open up our society and allow it to mature instead of smothering it and stifling its growth only to ask ourselves, “why aren’t we creative?”