Position paper by arts groups to reject MDA’s new arts term licensing scheme

By Terry Xu

A total of forty-five arts groups have come together to reject Media Development Authority (MDA)’s new Arts Term Licensing Scheme with a position paper published on the artists’ network Arts Engage.

This comes after a post at Arts Engage, “Artists in Singapore are mostly against the scheme” published on 25th May by local artists to voice against the new scheme.

MDA launched a public consultation paper on 12 May 2014 with the view of making amendments to the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act (PEMA). The objective of these amendments, according to MDA, is to “spur co-regulation by empowering arts entertainment event organisers to classify their own performance, such as plays, musicals and concerts, while being mindful of community standards and expectations”.

Under the MDA’s current scheme, “arts entertainments event organisers have to apply for individual licences for each performance or event, and the classification for the content is undertaken by MDA.”

The new Term Licensing Scheme which will run in July, is broken into two tiers.

Those under the first tier may self-classify their performances that fall within the “General” rating. There are around 90 percent of the 1200 arts entertainment licenses MDA issued last year that fall under this category. For the second tier, “licensees may self-classify performances up to the highest ‘Restricted 18’ rating”.

The arts groups argue in the position paper that the mechanics of the scheme run contrary to the spirit of co-regulation, self-classification and empowerment as the underlying principles of implementing such a scheme is in conflict with promoting an environment that fosters creativity. The arbitrary nature of classifying arts content, the penalties associated with misclassification, and the lack of clarity on the appeals process raises questions of fairness and transparency.

The position paper writes,

The current model of the MDA as gatekeeper and mediator between artists and disgruntled members of the public is deeply flawed. It sets up a false dichotomy of ‘artists versus community’, perpetuating the notion that society needs to be protected from its artists.

Artists and arts practitioners in Singapore are part of the community-at-large, not apart from it. We are also citizens, parents, members of religious groups, live in the ‘heartlands’, and we pay our taxes – like everyone else. It is misguided to presume that artists’ interests are at odds with community’s interests.

We therefore request for the relevant policy-makers to consider and acknowledge our strong objections to the Scheme. We also strongly recommend that:

1. The authorities delay the tabling of this Bill in Parliament;

2. MDA openly engage both artists and the general public in a wider and more robust round of consultations before such a scheme is rolled out.

Until these concerns are addressed, we, the undersigned, have no choice but to reject MDA’s new Arts Term Licensing Scheme.

(Image of performance by Wildrice Production)

Read the full position paper by the arts groups attached below

Arts engage position paper.