Baey Yam Keng, Arts

MPs call for new culture ministry and arts council to champion artistic freedom

TWO Members of Parliament have called for the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and its related agencies to step up to the plate and champion artists and artistic freedom.

Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) and Arts Nominated MP Janice Koh both pointed out that the Media Development Authority (MDA), which regulates artistic content, now falls under the Ministry for Communications and Information, after the former Ministry for Information, Communications and the Arts was dissolved last year.

"Now that the censorship function is in a different Ministry, I would like MCCY to be a champion for freedom of artistic expression," said Mr Baey, who chairs the government parliamentary committee for Culture, Community and Youth, on Thursday.

Ms Koh urged MCCY to abolish or update the funding guidelines of the National Arts Council, which comes under the ministry. "Restore the Arts Council to its intended role - not as a regulator of arts content, which is already being done by the MDA - but as a champion of artists and a promoter of artistic excellence."

She said NAC's "restrictive" funding guidelines often leave arts groups feeling "straitjacketed", which can discourage them from exploring challenging or provocative issues and place constraints on their creativity. Mr Baey and Ms Koh also cited the greater pluralism and diversity in society and the need for the arts to reflect these voices.

Ms Koh also spoke of the pressures faced by arts groups due to the lack of secure government funding and the rental fees they have to pay to use venues, which can come up to an average of $150,000 to $250,000 a year for an arts group which regularly presents work in mid-sized theatres.