Call to reconsider proposed changes to Films Act

Singaporean film-makers (from left) Anthony Chen, Jack Neo, Boo Junfeng and Kirsten Tan were among the 50 who have signed a position paper calling on the authorities to reconsider proposed amendments to the Films Act.
Singaporean film-makers (from left) Anthony Chen, Jack Neo, Boo Junfeng and Kirsten Tan were among the 50 who have signed a position paper calling on the authorities to reconsider proposed amendments to the Films Act.PHOTOS: ST FILE

50 film-makers sign positing paper saying tweaks will 'erode public confidence'

Fifty local film-makers have signed a position paper calling on the authorities to reconsider proposed changes to the Films Act.

Among them are prominent directors Anthony Chen, Jack Neo, Boo Junfeng, Kirsten Tan, K. Rajagopal, Royston Tan, Kelvin Tong and Tan Pin Pin.

A key concern in the paper - released yesterday - is the expanded powers that Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) officers will have in investigating breaches.

Signatories were concerned the changes "will erode public confidence in the processes that regulate access to films in Singapore".

Responding to The Straits Times' queries, IMDA said: "As part of the public consultation process, we welcome views and will take all feedback and comments into consideration... We will publish our responses in our closing note, which will be issued after the close of the consultation."

Currently, only a few IMDA officers - a censor, a deputy or assistant censor, or an inspector of films - can enter premises without a warrant, and conduct search and seizure over unlawful films, such as obscene or party political films, the paper noted.

With the changes, these powers extend to any classification or licensing officer, who may enter property by breaking doors and windows, and may do so in investigating any breach of the Films Act - not just over unlawful films.

"Such sweeping and invasive powers should only be granted to the police... It is not clear that classification or licensing officers have the necessary law enforcement operational background to wield such powers," they said.

OF PUBLIC CONCERN

Some of the amendments proposed will matter not just to film-makers but the public at large... This needs to be an ongoing conversation.

FILM-MAKER BOO JUNFENG

In a previous statement, IMDA said its officers "have to act quickly to secure evidence of the contraventions while minimising the chances of the suspected offender fleeing the scene". It added that its enforcement officers are adequately trained to carry out investigations in a way that stands up to scrutiny in a court of law.

The film-makers submitted the paper to IMDA yesterday. They are the latest to take issue with the proposed changes. A petition against IMDA's expanded powers started by film-maker Jason Soo attracted about 700 signatures.

Public consultation on the proposed changes is due to end on Dec 30 after two extensions. But the 50 film-makers called on IMDA to extend the consultation by another four weeks.

Other proposed amendments include a new scheme allowing some video companies to classify video titles up to a PG13 rating, and a new video games class licence.

In their paper, the film-makers outlined other concerns.

One is over potential breaches of personal data during enforcement, since film content is stored in devices that may contain private content unrelated to the film.

Another proposed change gives the minister "sole discretion" - after consulting a panel - over the outcome of appeals for films that are refused classification for undermining national security.

This change is made "in consideration that national security is at the heart of the Government's core responsibilities" and in view of "the increasing pervasiveness of media", said IMDA in public consultation documents.

Film-makers want the current framework retained - where appeals are made to a Films Appeal Committee, consisting of citizens.

Speaking to The Straits Times, director Boo Junfeng said: "Some of the amendments proposed will matter not just to film-makers but the public at large."

He added: "This needs to be an ongoing conversation... IMDA has been very accommodating to our request to meet them, and we hope that this engagement will continue, because we all want to find a solution that is equitable for everyone."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 23, 2017, with the headline 'Call to reconsider proposed changes to Films Act'. Print Edition | Subscribe