Laws on films, broadcasts will be updated: Yaacob

The Films Act and the Broadcasting Act will be amended this year to take into account changes in technology, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.
The Films Act and the Broadcasting Act will be amended this year to take into account changes in technology, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

The Films Act and the Broadcasting Act will be amended this year to take into account changes in technology, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

Dr Yaacob said in an interview with Malay daily Berita Harian, published yesterday, that the Government has a duty to ensure what is accessible here does not undermine racial and religious harmony or national security.

What is and is not a film has become less clear over time, he added, noting that smartphones can now shoot videos, for instance.

"Anybody can be a film-maker. Films can be distributed and transmitted via the Internet. It's a totally different regime," he said.

New services such as Netflix, a paid subscription service offering movies online, have also become popular and are now in Singapore.

The new law, when passed, will give the Government powers to audit sectors and make sure they have cyber defence systems in place. It will also spell out what powers the Government can have in the event of a large-scale cyber attack, for instance.

The changes to the law will ensure that content ratings of streaming sites are in line with Singapore norms, he said.

"People don't watch movies in the theatres any more. They watch movies in their home, over the Internet, through their TV," said Dr Yaacob.

"How do we ensure the content meets our standards? Those are the things we have to look into."

Such trends mean that an update of the laws regulating films in Singapore is timely, the minister added. However, he acknowledged that some items such as videos on YouTube will be difficult to regulate.

In the interview, Dr Yaacob also talked about two other priorities for his ministry this year. They are: to introduce the cyber-security Bill to build up Singapore's defences, and to develop manpower to meet the needs of the infocomm technology (ICT) industry.

Singapore currently does not have a law governing cyber security.

The new law, when passed, will give the Government powers to audit sectors and make sure they have cyber defence systems in place. It will also spell out what powers the Government can have in the event of a large-scale cyber attack, for instance.

"Suppose there's an attack taking place, a big hack or a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack in our power sector.

"What are the powers... the minister has to ensure we can work together with the sector to face the challenge as quickly as possible?" said Dr Yaacob on what the upcoming law will cover.

His ministry will also ensure that there is a steady stream of trained graduates from the universities and polytechnics, as well as people switching careers, to fill the jobs created in the ICT industry. It already faces a shortage of manpower.

"By 2020, we'll create 30,000 jobs but we need people for those jobs. We need to make sure there'll be enough Singaporeans to come in," said Dr Yaacob.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 08, 2017, with the headline 'Laws on films, broadcasts will be updated: Yaacob'. Print Edition | Subscribe