There goes MDA — again

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The civil servant who came up with the self-licensing scheme for arts companies probably thought it was a brilliant idea: not only would it free up the licensing committee from its tedious task of going through scripts but even better, it would give the impression to Singaporeans that the government was relaxing its grip.

Wrong. “Content standards have not changed,” The Straits Times quoted Chetra Sinnathamby, the Media Development Authority’s person in charge of content and standards. Unscripted performances and anything that touches on race, religion or politic, will still be subject to event licensing. The pilot scheme begins in July and arts companies can give their own ratings for their shows – according to MDA guidelines.

Arts companies can apply for Tier 1 or 2 licences, depending on their track record with MDA. Each licence is valid for a year. In addition, companies taking part in the scheme will have to appoint an “MDA-registered content assessor” who will be trained to classify each show according to the guidelines.

One company that will not be taking part is the late Kuo Pao Kun’s Theatre Practice. It’s artistic director, Kuo’s daughter Jing Hong, told ST: “(We’re) not assessing based on our own intelligence or our own beliefs, but rather, we’re executing MDA’s guidelines, like agents.”

The former artistic director of The Substation, T Sasitharan, said in a Facebook post: “Co-regulation amounts to the state policing the arts by proxy. It co-opts the artists into a regime of surveillance and suppression. It is morally unconscionable.”