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Retailers can self-classify video ratings

Movies rated G and PG13 for cinema screening can skip censors' prior approval.
The Straits Times - November 29, 2012
By: Sherwin Loh
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Retailers can self-classify video ratings

HOME video retailers will soon be allowed to place age classifications on some of the movies they sell in a change to Singapore's censorship rules.

They will be able to give the titles ratings of G and PG13 without waiting for them to be cleared by the Board of Film Censors (BFC).

The change comes at a time when Singapore's home video industry is suffering from the rise of online rivals, with stores such as Tower Records and Sembawang Music Centre shutting down in recent years.

At present, distributors and retailers have to submit every title to the BFC for a rating before it can be sold.

But the new system means, for example, that if they want to sell a children's animation that was rated PG13 when it was shown in Singapore cinemas, they no longer have to submit it.

Instead, the BFC will take the recommended rating from the distributor or retailer, and issue the age certificate accordingly.

This will speed up the process of making home video titles available in stores. At present, it takes between two and six weeks. With self-regulation, distributors are looking at putting titles in stores within a week.

However, the change does not cover NC16 and M18 titles, which include more adult content.

The Straits Times understands that more than 10 industry players, such as HMV and TS Video, were made aware of the new policy on Tuesday at a closed-door meeting headed by Media Development Authority chairman Niam Chiang Meng.

When contacted, MDA said the change was an attempt "to foster greater industry co-regulation". A spokesman declined to reveal when the new rule would kick in.

Broadcasters and pay-TV operators also use a self-classification system. Free-to-air channels classify content up to PG13, while pay-TV channels do so with films up to M18.

The Straits Times understands that home video self-classification for NC16 and M18 titles will be looked into at a later date. Retailers are not allowed to sell movies rated R21.

Another possible change involves television series made before or during the 1980s that are sold on DVD. These could now be exempted from classification. At the moment, only TV shows made before 1965 are exempt. Industry players said that because TV-on-DVD titles can be more than 15 hours long, it can take more than a month for them to be classified. This in turn limits the number of TV-on-DVD titles sold in stores.

MDA is also looking at reducing video classification fees. Currently, distributors and retailers pay $0.80 per certification sticker on each DVD or blu-ray. This cost can be passed on to consumers.

Singapore's home-video industry has been hit by the rise of online services such as iTunes, Netflix and Hula, which do not have to go through the BFC.

TS Video general manager William Khoo, 52, said: "MDA can see our plight and was agreeable to taking quick actions...We are happy, based on what was promised. Now, we need to see it being implemented."

Industry veteran Kenny Kwek, who has been in the business for 20 years, said that the MDA should further level the playing field between physical stores and digital content services.

He said: "It's great that they are looking at lowering fees. We hope that self-classification of NC16 and M18 titles will happen, and MDA can let us sell R21 movies as well."

sherwinl@sph.com.sg

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