Renowned local film-maker Martyn See took to his Facebook on Tuesday (4 June) to question the possibility for Mothership to release a political video on its site.
Mr See was referring to a video published by the online site on its Facebook page where it had a free-and-easy interview with Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Transport Janil Puthucheary.
In the video titled “Things you didn’t know you had to ask a Senior Minister of State for Transport”, the interviewer asked a number of important political questions to the Minister like the Transit Priority Corridor, the future of buses in the country, his preferred party – PAP or Barisan Sosialis, as well as MRT’s network map by 2040, while injecting some casual questions such as his pet peeve, favourite hawker food and more.
Upon viewing the video, Mr See wrote in his post that he had emailed Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) to ask about the release of this video.
He pointed out that since this video is “not a government produced film”, it will “NOT be exempted under Section 40 the Films Act”.
“As such, it would be subjected to the Films Act, in particular Section 33 which criminalises the production, exhibition and distribution of Party Political Films,” he wrote.
The local film-maker explained that the “film contains biased political matter, a political person promoting a political issue, party logos, unscripted dialogues, graphics and animation”.
In the video, one can see that the video included logos of both PAP and Barisan Sosialis, as well as Mr Puthucheary disclosing his preferred party and talking about the Transit Priority Corridor, which all can be seen as he promoting a political issue.
As such, Mr See questioned, “Has the film been submitted for clarification? Would it not be classified as a Party Political Film under Section 33 of the Films Act, which is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years?”
Comparing to a similar issue, Mr See highlighted a news that was covered by the Straits Times in 2015 after the Media Development Authority (MDA) classified a minute long video released by Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) as “clearly a party political films” as defined by the Films Act.
The SDP film which was uploaded on YouTube was shot like a washing detergent commercial that showed a woman using a washing detergent brand named Pappy White to get rid of words like “transparency”, “accountability” and “democracy” from white T-shirts.
In a statement by MDA, it said that the film used “dramatic elements to sensationalise serious issues” and was “an example of political discourse that does not befit the serious of the elections”.
However, no further action was taken by MDA on SDP’s film since it was the first case that emerged concerning a party political film, so they might not fully know the requirements that come under the law.
Although the authorities had stepped in to comment about SDP’s film four years ago, but it is not doing anything about Mothership’s latest video which shares a similar sentiment. Mr See commented to TOC that while he does not expect a reply from IMDA about his query but he still felt the need to highlight the issue.
Mothership which was formed in 2014 is a social news website that is styled almost like American site Buzzfeed. Its backing come in the name of Project Fisher-men Ltd, identified as the social enterprise that operates Mothership and reported to be chaired by veteran civil servant Philip Yeo.
However, when asked by TOC, editor Belmont Lay said that the website was funded by executive director Lien Wee King.
Mr Lien made headlines as the fund manager who helped former Foreign Minister George Yeo collect forms for the 2011 Presidential Election, when the latter was considering if he should run for the Presidency.
Besides that, Mothership also frequently gets sponsored posts deals from various ministries and agencies in the country.
Given the political link that Mothership has with various parties, could IMDA be lenient to the site, or in this case, closed its eyes regarding the site’s latest politically-influenced film?