Janice Koh's Additional Submission to MDA

COMMENTS ON THE PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE PUBLIC ENTERTAINMENT AND MEETINGS ACT

 (1)  The new system appears to create a triplicate of assessments, which is counter-productive.  It also transfers the liability for mistaken classifications to the companies and content assessors.

 The new system involves the following steps:

 (a)    20 days prior to the date of the event or performance, the arts company is obliged to “deposit relevant materials with MDA”.  At this stage, the Licensing Officer (the “LO”) may, in accordance with Section 13 of the Act, “in his discretion, refuse to issue or renew any licence”.  Further, he may, under Section 14 of the Act, “in his discretion, suspend or cancel a licence” if he is satisfied that the public entertainment is

 “(a) has been the cause or is likely to be the cause of a breach of the peace;

  (b) has been or is likely to be wholly or in part of an indecent, immoral, offensive, subversive or improper nature;

  (c) has caused or is likely to cause unnecessary suffering or any injury to any person or animal taking part in it, or to any member of the audience; or

  (d) has been provided or is likely to be provided otherwise than in accordance with the conditions of the licence or is contrary to the public interest; or

  (e) has been or is likely to be provided in contravention of a direction issued by the Art Entertainment Licensing Officer under Section 15C(1).”

 As is evident, the grounds for suspension or cancellation are rather wide.  Under Section 11, security bonds may be required.

(b)  Even after the licence is granted, under the new Section 15B, the content of the arts entertainment will also be required to be “classified”.  Such classification may be conducted by a registered content assessor (a “CA”) where the LO “requires” for it, or conducted by the LO himself.  It is submitted that there is no transparency here as to when a classification is to be made by the CA or by the LO. If the assessments are generally performed by the LO, then the differences between the new and old schemes are very slight, and do not “create an environment where arts practitioners can undertake greater responsibility for their own content through co-regulation” – as stated as one of the principles underpinning these changes.  Where a CA’s services are engaged, the CA is liable for wrongful classifications and may be penalised under Section 15A(5).

 (c)   Under Section 15B(3), where the LO has required that a CA classifies the content, the arts company must appoint a registered CA to conduct the classification.  However, even after the CA has done his job, the arts company is required to “confirm” whether the CA’s classification is in accordance with the classification code.  Under Section 15B(7), the arts company itself may be liable if it wrongly confirms such classification by the CA.  From the Act, it is clear that only CAs will be trained in the skills of content assessing.  To place an obligation on the arts company to “confirm” such a classification puts the arts companies in a difficult position.   

 As seen from the foregoing, the new system complicates the assessment system by having 3 parties involved in assessment: the LO which may classify or which may alternatively “require” a CA to be appointed; the CA where it is required to be appointed, and who may then be prosecuted for wrong classifications; and the arts company itself, who then may be prosecuted if it wrongly “confirms” a classification conducted by a CA properly and duly trained by the LO.

The only wrongful classification not prosecutable appears to be where it is conducted by the LO.  With respect, this system is wrong if the system was underpinned by the principle of “co-regulation”.  Cooperation cannot be found in circumstances where only certain parties are made liable for mistakes and not others.


 (2)   The position of a CA under the new scheme is not clear.

It is unclear if the new amendments will lead to the establishment of a new profession of “content assessors”.  However under Section 15F(e), the CA needs to be a “fit and proper person”.  It is difficult to establish the objective standards for fitness and propriety for a profession thus far unknown in Singapore.  It is possible, however, that some arts companies may not be populated by such fit and proper persons, leading to the requirement for CA services to be outsourced.  When such outsourcing occurs, it is also unclear how these services may be charged for.

 

 (3)    There are some grammatical errors in the amendments which include:

 (a)    In the definition of “approved place” under Section 2;

(b)   Section 15B(7), “the classification is contrary to the classification code shall be guilty…”

 

 SUBMITTED BY:

 JANICE KOH, NOMINATED MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

30 May 2014