14 May 2005

A Party Broadcast on Behalf of the Liberal Party (Part 2)

Elsewhere, others have offered a textual-legal reading of the Film Act. I will not attempt to cross the same grounds here. Instead of the Film Act as the subject of study, we focus on the Film Act (and only its 1998 revisions) as an artefact - a manifestation or symptom, if you will - of the modes of production and subsequent relations of power inherent in Singapore.

What are the pre-existing conditions of Singapore society that facilitate the specific measures and proposals within the 1998 Film Act? In order to answer this, we first have to marshall our evidence.

The Evidence

Sec. 2 (2) appears to offer a straightforward definition of a political film, but the preceding chapter gives away the true intention of the legislators:

A political film is a film or media broadcast...
1(b) which is made by any person and directed towards any political end in Singapore;

Sec. 2 (3) is either uniquely Singaporean, or crafted by unironic legislators with a poor grasp of grammar:

For the avoidance of doubt, any film which is made solely for the purpose of

(a) reporting of current events; or

(b) informing or educating persons on the procedures and polling times for any election or national referendum in Singapore,

is not a party political film.

It seems to say "Yes, you can do all of the above evil things, if you're reporting on current events, or informing people that there is this election".

In case you didn't get the nudge, nudge, wink wink message, here's sec. 40:

1) This Act shall not apply to
(a) any film sponsored by the Government;
(c) any film reproduced from local television programmes and is not intended for distribution or public exhibition.

(2) The Minister may, subject to such conditions as he thinks fit, exempt any person or class of persons or any film or class of films from all or any of the provisions of this Act.

"The Government" may make political films that blatantly or subtly influence elections, mould public opinion of its candidates, broadcast them on national propaganda tv. It is exempt to this Film Act, and it is empowered to exempt others (as it sees fit) from this Act.

Under sec. 23 (2); sec. 34 (1-2), the Act gives unlimited power to the police to engage in search without warrants and use of force to investigate violations of the Act. (All these are 1998 provisions) Note that the police authorities do NOT need the opinion of the censorship board to classify a film as violating the Act, in order to launch an investigation. They are also allowed to confiscate all suspected filmmaking material, storage material, etc. (Your cameras, film footage, other film stock for unrelated projects, your computer...)

You can appeal to a committee if you feel your film has been wrongly classified. The 1998 revision adds that the appeals committee will consist of people appointed by the Minister (for the Arts/Communication), under sec. 25 (1).

Even in the original Act itself, the Minister has the power to call for an inspection of any film by the censorship board, and also call for any film that does not contravene the Act (i.e. escaped through some loopholes) to be banned.

The Analysis will come tomorrow... this post is long enough.

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