New licence scheme for video games among changes in Films Act

Move comes under an automatic class licence scheme, which is among changes to Films Act

Retailers who repeatedly sell physical copies of age-restricted video games to underage buyers will be barred from selling such games, under a new law passed by Parliament yesterday.

The duration of the ban will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

This move comes under an automatic class licence scheme to protect the young from inappropriate content as video games become more complex and graphic, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

The scheme is among a slew of changes made to the Films Act that received the nod from Parliament, following assurances from Dr Yaacob to MPs that the changes are necessary to keep up with technological and societal developments.

Other major changes include an optional and new co-classification scheme, which allows trained employees of some video companies to become film content assessors and classify films up to a PG13 rating, so that titles will be available to viewers at an earlier date.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will also be given new powers to reclassify films to a higher or lower rating.

Dr Yaacob said this is needed as film classification guidelines are "updated from time to time to reflect our evolving norms and values".

Reclassification, however, will be done only after "careful consideration", and the views of the Films Consultative Panel will be sought for contentious films, he added. The panel comprises a cross-section of Singaporeans.

Last December, the film community expressed concerns about the "sweeping and invasive powers" in initial proposals to amend the Act in a move to shift enforcement and investigation of all offences under the Films Act from the police to the IMDA.

Following a public consultation, the expanded powers for IMDA officers to enter and search premises without warrant were confined to serious offences, namely, those involving prohibited films and the unlicensed public exhibition of films.

Currently, they can only do so for obscene, party political and unclassified films.

Other new powers of these officers include being able to ask for information and documents needed for investigation, gain access to places where films are publicly exhibited or distributed, and take statements from people as part of an investigation.

These measure will help to close gaps in the enforcement regime, said Dr Yaacob.

Meanwhile, the making of party political films will continue to remain an offence under the Films Act, as they risk harming political discourse, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Chee Hong Tat said yesterday.

He made the point when replying to Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh during the debate on proposed changes to the Films Act.