Monday, April 14, 2008

Letter to Today Paper: MDA needs to rethink censorship

(Unpublished - April 10, 2008 - Letter to Today Editor below)

MDA needs to rethink censorship

Dear Editor,

I refer to the recent $10,000 fine imposed on StarHub Cable Vision (SCV) by the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore. SCV featured two girls kissing in a commercial on MTV’s Mandarin-language channel.

While MDA sees it as a threat to dominant social and moral norms, alleging that the commercial “promoted lesbianism as acceptable and romantic”, we need to understand that there are diverse sexualities and sexual orientation that exist in our society.

Rather than promotion, we should be able to see it as a representation of lesbianism, which is unfortunately often either invisible, stereotyped or misunderstood. We should thus not allow the tyranny of the majority to marginalise other peoples.

Furthermore, it is not criminal here that two women are in passionate embrace and kissing. Such a policy only reflects the sex-negativity of Singaporeans and the denial of homosexuality as part of society. It also says a lot about the degree to which the government will allow sexual minorities to be represented.

The fears of the promotion, celebration and “spread” of homosexualism all stem from a stereotypical misunderstanding of homosexuality. Many are quick to assume that the media is all powerful and can totally influence or change one’s sexual orientation in this case.

It seems that MDA formulates its policies based on the positivist findings of Albert Bandura’s 1961 Bobo doll experiment, wherein children in the experiment are observed to assault the Bobo doll after watching an adult hitting it. Sexual orientation, like violent behaviour, is thought by the authorities to be learned, hence the need for disciplining through media control.

With a blinkered focus that only takes into account an audience’s relationship with media, we forget about the political influences of dominant moral communities, based on their numerical superiority, which shape the production and dissemination of media messages and images. Too much attention is placed on how we can censor and ban, so that people do not become “corrupt”, however defined by the dominant groups.

What I also find mystifying is that there is relatively not much attention and debate focused on the pervasive depictions of violence in the media, but rather larger concerns on homosexuality, which does not result in bloodshed or death. There are many television programmes that depict violence, its glorification, as well as vengeful violence. Acts of media violence often go unpunished and acts of love gets SCV a fine of $10,000.

Ho Chi Sam

From AsiaOne News:

SCV fined for airing lesbian kiss in music ad

CABLE television operator StarHub Cable Vision (SCV) has been fined $10,000 for airing a music video that showed two women kissing for about nine seconds.

The clip for Sha Hai Zi (Silly Child) by Mandarin pop singer Olivia Yan aired over MTV Mandarin Channel on Nov 26 and 28 last year. It shows Yan kissing and embracing actress Pei Lin.

According to the Taipei Times, Pei has been getting kudos from netizens for her portrayal of a lesbian in the music video, supposedly a first for Taiwan.

The Media Development Authority (MDA) said in a statement on its Web site on Wednesday that 'romanticised scenes of two girls kissing were shown and it portrayed the relationship as acceptable'.

The statement added: 'This is in breach of the TV advertising guidelines, which disallows advertisements that condone homosexuality.'

TV Mandarin had classified the music video as a commercial for Olivia Yan's album.

MDA had consulted the Advisory Committee for Chinese Programmes and the committee agreed that the clip had promoted lesbianism as 'acceptable and romantic'.

Caitlin Fua, StarHub's Corporate Communications Manager responded: 'We are disappointed with MDA's decision to impose the penalty.'

She added however that SCV understood MDA's concern and will work with their content partners to ensure that local broadcasting guidelines are adhered to.

From Today Online:

StarHub fined $10,000 for 'lesbian kissing scene'

The Media Development Authority has fined StarHub Cable Vision $10,000 for airing a commercial that depicted "lesbian kissing scenes".

The MDA posted a statement yesterday on its website about the cable operator's breach of TV advertising guidelines, "which disallows advertisements that condone homosexuality".

The commercial, which aired over two days in November on MTV's Mandarin-language channel, was to promote a song by pop singer Olivia Yan (picture).

Her music video from the album Silly Child featured two scenes of herself and Taiwanese actress Pei Lin in a "passionate embrace", as described last November in the Taipei Times.

The portrayal of a lesbian in a music video was supposedly a first for Taiwan, the paper reported.

According to the MDA, in the commercial, "romanticised scenes of two girls kissing were shown and it portrayed the relationship as acceptable".

The MDA had consulted the Advisory Committee for Chinese Programmes, which concurred that the commercial had "promoted lesbianism as acceptable and romantic, especially when shown together with the lyrics featured".

The MDA said it had taken into account the "severity" of the breach and that the commercial was aired on a youth-oriented TV channel, as well as SCV's explanation on the matter before deciding "a financial penalty was warranted".

StarHub expressed disappointment at the authority's decision to impose a fine but said it would follow broadcasting rules. "We understand the authority's concern, and will continue to work closely with our regional and international content partners to ensure that the local broadcasting guidelines are fully adhered to," said StarHub spokesperson Caitlin Fua.


Valen Minbari said...

Posted on RejectedSTLetters:

Sam Ho said...


yuetching said...

always had a problem with y media authorities or powerful groups in society act like the moral authority..isn't it kind of immoral and questionable how one will go abt being a moral authority?