1. What are the governmental ministry and agencies that oversee the policy?
In the past, film censorship in Singapore was largely strict as its population is deeply conservative. It was necessary to prevent any offensive political, racial or religious, violence or sexual themes from being screened to the viewing audience, as this might upset the balance of Singapore's delicate multi-racial society.
Presently, Singapore’s regimental film censorship has been lightened. This enables most of Hollywood’s major films to be released locally after several cuts by the Board of Film Censors.
The importing, making, distributing or exhibiting of films in Singapore is governed by the Films Act of 1981. Films are first presented to the Board of Film Censors (BFC) to review. The BFC classifies the films under different ratings for different groups of audiences (eg. PG, NC16, R21 etc.) before they are released to the public.
Critics of this policy, such as Alex Au, argue that the true intention is to buttress the continued political dominance of the People's Action Party, and to do so partly by promoting the Government's social engineering efforts.
2. Who are the direct parties involved in the transaction? Are there any indirect (external) parties that are involved or affected by the transaction?
The direct parties involved includes the whole population of Singapore which include children, teenagers , adults and the aged. All age groups will thus be affect by the film’s various standards and limits (PG, NC16, M18, R21). External parties would include entertainment companies and outlets which sell forms of video entertainment which will include content from films shown (VCD, DVD, etc). Films banned in Singapore would not be able to be sold in outlets in Singapore and these forms of censorship would be a negative externality to the companies and outlets who sell video cd’s as it would be less income coming in.
3. Are there any other supporters or critics of the policy? Examine their views.
The Censorship Survey 2002 conducted by the Censorship Review Committee on a representative of 1000 respondents has shown that on average, 70% of respondents were satisfied with the current censorship standards. Technological advancements have spawned a new array of media formats and communication platforms, which have in turn challenged the existing censorship policies and guidelines. For example, film bans are becoming more irrelevant in this age of broadband Internet access; this allows users to download films from websites that are hosted overseas. (Internet penetration rate is 59.4%, while 24.2% of our households have broadband access.) This survey indicates the strong public support (65%) for the retention of the age 21 restriction from 70% in Censorship Survey 1992.
The results of the survey has shown that respondents generally supported less censorship for adults (53%) and, in particular, more censorship for the young. A little more than half of the respondents supported the existence of controlled places where disallowed content can be watched or purchased. 71% of the respondents felt that parents and not the government are responsible for what their children see or hear, however, 84% of them would not take any action even if they were unhappy with the film’s content. 67% of respondents thought that censorship for local and foreign mediums should be the same. Nevertheless, critics claim that such findings are limited as they do not consider the wider context of the film and its effect on the viewer.
Censorship itself is insufficient to maintain the moral tone of our society as it also depends on the industry, artists and community and on what the society deem as being acceptable standards for media content. A shared responsibility among various stakeholders is needed for censorship to complement public education for greater media awareness.
4. Do you agree with the Singapore government’s policy in addressing the issue?
I think censorship is useless in the eyes of the many people who watch movies online/downloaded or those who frequent video CD outlets. Even though films in Singapore are given strict ratings, underage audience may still view it through the many avenues mentioned above. Nevertheless, it is also the duty of the government to protect the country’s youths and children from material which might harm them such as extreme gore and violence as well as pornography Many lobby for the banning of films and TV programmes, on the grounds that media images of sex and violence are in part responsible for the decline of moral standards in society. Accounts from psychologists and researchers clearly prove the link between violent acts and exposure to violent images.
However, in order for the censorship to be successful, control over the internet must also be ensured which is almost impossible. Ahh I don’t know what to say. Ok bye-bye. Oh yeah, parents play an important part too … shouldn’t allow their young children to watch movies such as SAW. Less censorship and cuts should be put in place for movies which have adult rating. Since adults are already mature enough to understand the consequences of their actions should they follow acts shown on movies…I should think they know right from wrong and too much censorship is bad.
Credits: Aretha Poh, Adarsh Dinesh, Wong Shi Yi and Woo Yuan Ying