Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Consult Public On Films Act

The time for consulting the public (again!) on the Films Act is now due. The Media Development Authority should activate its Films Consultative Panel for a public consultation exercise jointly with the Feedback Unit.


Recently there has been much public criticism about s. 33 of the Films Act (Cap 107). It provides:

Making, distribution and exhibition of party political films

33. Any
person who —
(a) imports any party political film;
(b) makes or
reproduces any party political film;
(c) distributes, or has in his
possession for the purposes of distributing, to any other person any party
political film; or
(d) exhibits, or has in his possession for the purposes
of exhibiting, to any other person any party political film,
knowing or
having reasonable cause to believe the film to be a party political film shall
be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not
exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.
The Films Act defines "party political film" as a film "(a) which is an advertisement made by or on behalf of any political party in Singapore or any body whose objects relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, or any branch of such party or body; or (b) which is made by any person and directed towards any political end in Singapore".

The MDA has successfully applied this broadly; 'controversial' films have been banned.

However, the widely-publicised public criticism seems to indicate that MDA's position is not in synch with public norms/interest.


According to the MDA, the terms of the reference of the FCP are as follows: "The Panel is to provide for a more balanced and objective approach to film classification, in keeping with changing social mores. The Panel is consulted whenever a decision needs to be made on a controversial film."

As such, it would be within the FCP's mandate to conduct such a public consulation exercise to check if the position in s. 33 of the Films Act reflects current "social mores".

A public consultation exercise will not be new to the MDA. The MDA has often activated its panels in response to public criticism about the legislation under its purview. For example, in response to public criticism, the MDA recently conducted a public consultation exercise on its magazine content guidelines.

Such a public consultation exercise should be conducted by members of the FCP who are neither members nor donors of political parties in Singapore or overseas.

As the MDA did for its public consultation on the Code of Practice for Market Conduct in the Provision of Mass Media Services, the findings of the public consultation exercise on s. 33 of the Films Act should also be made available on the MDA website.

These measures will enable the public consultation exercise to be conducted in a neutral, fair and transparent manner.


Clearly, a public consultation exercise can help the MDA better decide on the way forward for s. 33 of the Films Act. And it should be done soon!

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?

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