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Singapore’s Censorship Review Committee pushes for self-regulation

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Singapore’s Censorship Review Committee (CRC) has proposed that film and television content in the country should be regulated with the help of the industry and the general public, and should not be solely the Government’s task.

The CRC has issued a report after almost a year of deliberations, and it recommends that all Internet Service Providers offer parents the use of Internet filters at home so that they may personally decide how to control their children’s access to online content.

The committee said parents should be able to understand the use of the filters more easily, and should only have to answer a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the installation each time they subscribe or renew their contracts.

The filters will over turn the current symbolic ban on a list of 100 websites, although the government will retain the power to ban websites that are considered as a threat to national security.

Other recommendations put forward by the CRC include the introduction of a PG-13 film classification for broadcast television, and the distribution of R21 films beyond movie theaters in the central region.

The outlined plan is to have PG content shown on free-to-air television after 10pm, and PG-13 content shown after 11pm. Films with an R21 rating are also being pushed to be made available at cinemas in housing estates, and on Internet subscription TV. The films are to be advertised with discretion, and only screened at certain timings. Video sales are being considered as well, should stakeholders be able to withhold sales from minors.

Citizens do not seem wholly comfortable with this present proposal even though there was a public outcry in 1991, when the Film Classification System was introduced and kept R21 films to the city central and off subscription TV channels.

CRC’s nationwide survey found 60 per cent of the public still do not want R21 films in housing estates, but only 42 per cent and 39 per cent were against R21 content on pay-TV and the sale of R21 videos respectively.

Chairman of the CRC Goh Yew Lin said, “If the product is available in one part of town …and it’s going to be available on Internet TV, which will be coming through your television screen before long, there should be no philosophical reason not to allow distribution through other channels.”

The committee believes that their recommendations are realistic in the changing media environment, and stated that “Next-generation broadband services and the growing convergence of television with personal computers will lead to even more consumers accessing films through the Internet, bypassing our local regulatory framework.”

A total of 80 recommendations have been submitted to the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA), and a response is expected within a month.

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