MCI's response to PQ on social norms

Parliament Sitting on 5 August 2014

QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER

*145. Mr Zaqy Mohamad: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information (a) whether the Ministry has plans to conduct public consultations on defining today's "social norms" given how different views on "social norms" by various stakeholders have defined the reactions in the recent NLB book saga as well as the "Pink Dot" and "Wear White" campaign; and (b) how does the Ministry plan to address such issues concerning "social norms" including how creative works should be classified or rated, in a way that is not divisive to society. 

Answer:

      The Media Development Authority (MDA) classifies and regulates content across different platforms, and publishes various Content Codes outlining the relevant classification standards for film, videos, video games, broadcast media, publications and arts performances.

2      The formulation of the various Content Codes, as well as the decision of MDA classifiers in specific cases, involves seeking various types of input from the community. MDA conducts regular surveys of our population to gain important insights into community views.  During this year’s Committee of Supply debate, I had announced that MDA will be launching a Content Standards Study later this year to assess whether our existing content standards and policies remain in line with community expectations, and whether there is a need to further harmonise our ratings system across different mediums. The last such major study was conducted in 2010 to support the work of the Censorship Review Committee (CRC). One key finding of the survey was the broad-based support of our content regulatory standards, with 7 in 10 respondents supporting current levels of content regulation for TV, magazines, films, videos and arts performances.

3      In addition, MDA regularly seeks the views of its advisory committees which comprise members representing a wide cross-section of our society.  MDA has 10 such advisory committees, covering broadcast media, films, videos, video games, publications and the arts. These committees provide valuable advice to MDA on content classification decisions and the review of its content guidelines. MDA also frequently engages key stakeholders, such as members of the public and the industry, for their views. MDA officers understand that the nature of their work as classifiers means that they do not expect everyone to agree with their decisions. Quite the contrary, if their decision attracts disagreement from members of the public at either end of a spectrum of views, it is a good indication that MDA has managed to strike a judicious balance between competing interests.

4      Our current approach ensures that our content regulatory standards and policies are in line with social norms, and keep pace with its evolution. This approach has worked well. Clearly, the public does not expect agencies to seek public consultation on every single classification decision they have to make. When Content Codes are being reviewed, they are open to public consultation. However, between such periods of review, it should be left to the classifiers, with input and advice from the consultative panels, to get on with the job of providing the public with sufficient information to allow them to make their own informed choices. 

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