On 4 December 2017, the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (“IMDA”) released its long-awaited public consultation paper on the proposed changes to the Films Act (Cap. 107). Minister for Communications and Information, Yaacob Ibrahim, first indicated in January of this year that the government was looking to amend both the Films Act and Broadcasting Act to take into account changes in technology.
One broad theme that emerges from the proposed amendments is the fact that the IMDA is focussing its regulatory efforts on the distribution and public exhibition of films. While changes are also proposed to include digital streaming technology under the regime, the emphasis on “public exhibition” indicates that IMDA is, for the purposes of the current consultation at least, taking a lighter-touch approach to regulating consumer-focussed over-the-top video streaming services.
There are several proposed amendments, but this post sets out the four key proposals you should be aware of.
Four key proposed changes
- Formalisation of co-classification scheme. Following successful trials in 2011 and 2015, IMDA now proposes to formalise its industry co-classification scheme. This scheme allows employees of industry players to register and be trained as film content assessors. These industry players will then be allowed to independently co-classify films up to the PG-13 rating through their film content assessors. Safeguards will be put in place to ensure the system is not abused, such as IMDA’s right to conduct sample audits of films that have been co-classified and penalties for misclassification.
- Introduction of video games class licence. Currently, video games are often submitted for classification by wholesale distributors. For video games classified as M18, point-of-sale requirements are attached to the classification certificate issued by IMDA (e.g. ensuring the games are not sold to under-aged consumers). The downstream retailers that sell the video games to consumers are often not made aware of these requirements, defeating their purpose. IMDA proposes introducing an automatic class licence scheme for retailers that sell video games on physical media (e.g. on DVDs) to make them directly responsible for complying with the point-of-sale requirements. The licence will be automatic with no registration required, and will not involve the payment of any licence fees.
- Clarification that the films licence is only intended to apply to the distribution and public exhibition of films. IMDA has clarified that its films licensing scheme is only targeted at the distribution and public exhibition of films and is proposing amendments to reflect this. Amendments will also be made to ensure that films publicly exhibited by means of streaming or other digital transmission are also included under this scheme. In determining what is a “public exhibition” requiring a licence, IMDA will consider factors such as whether there was: (i) intent to have pre-event public solicitation of guests; (ii) public advertising of the event; (iii) limited entry to pre-registered guests and access controls; and (iv) any risk of exposure of the film to the public by way of the venue.
- Narrowing of the films classification scope. Similarly, IMDA also proposes that only films intended for public exhibition be submitted for classification. Currently, it is an offence to bring in an unclassified film into Singapore, even if only for private consumption. However, IMDA proposes having an overriding power to require films containing content contrary to the public interest to be submitted for classification.
IMDA is now welcoming comments on the proposed changes by 5 pm on Friday, 15 December 2017. More details can be found here. Following the release of this public consultation paper, it seems that the proposed amendments to the Broadcasting Act should be expected soon.