The Flipside

‘Offering R21 content a good thing’

R21 content is now available in Singapore.


In "The FlipSide", local blogger Belmont Lay lets loose on local politics, culture and society. To be taken with a pinch of salt. Parental permission is advised. In this post, he talks about R21 content on pay-television.

This just in: starting today, SingTel's mio TV is offering its subscribers R21 adult movies on demand to be viewed privately at home.

StarHub, the other pay-television platform, has also announced that it will be rolling out a similar service at a later yet-to-be-confirmed date.

Apparently, this plan to offer such content to paying customers has been brewing since 2010. It was a recommendation made by the Films Censorship Committee, given the green light by the Media Development Authority and approved by the Government.

And it is a good thing for Singaporeans.

Progress

First and foremost, for R21 content to be made available in Singaporean homes in the year 2012 goes to show that our society is indeed progressing.

Because now our media landscape will only be 20 years behind London, New York and Hong Kong.

Given another 30 years and with some more mollycoddling, who knows? In terms of our quality and quantity of programming, we should be only 10 years behind.

What a great way to stay ahead of the times!

Protecting underage viewers

Such great expectations aside, I'm really curious to see how the day-to-day functioning of the pay-television system plays out.

Apparently, the Censorship Review Committee -- the same committee that made the recommendation for showing naughty content and also tasked to protect the virginal eyes and ears of Singaporeans -- has insisted that a personal identification pin (PIN) is used as a parental locking mechanism to keep underage members of society at bay.

Without a doubt this technological innovation will be effective in deterring teenagers. Once they grow frustrated with tampering with the locking mechanism, they will be defeated and go back to their rooms.

Teenagers will sulk when they realise they cannot beat the system because they don't know the PIN.

And then two minutes later, they will go on the Internet and download porn. And all the restricted movies they will have to pay for if they watched it on mio TV.

All the while their parents will be smugly confident that they have kept their children out of harm's way.

All's well that ends well.

Monetised distribution channels

Not wanting to be so optimistic about things all the time, I do notice the conflicts of interest R21 movies on pay-television will cause.

As a lay observer, I mean, what better timing to make this announcement now?

Just last Thursday, local director Ken Kwek had his film, "Sex.Violence.FamilyValues", banned at the very last minute because it was deemed to be racially insensitive.

The message that is being sent out is very clear: naughty films can be monetised and distributed through Government-approved channels only.

If you're an independent filmmaker who wants to put out a potentially controversial film through your own desired medium, I'm sorry, tough luck.

Maybe you should wait another 30 years.

Logical system

However, aren't the authorities blowing hot and cold about allowing controversial content then?

Well, I beg to differ. The system is inherently logical.

Once you turn 18, you are legally old enough to smoke, drink and bear arms. At 21, you are bound by law to vote rationally for members-of-parliament and your president.

But regardless of age, you shall always be told what you cannot watch.

Why?

Because if the Government doesn't spend all its time making up arbitrary rules, how is it going to continue to keep people in the civil service and unemployment levels low?

Belmont Lay is the editor of New Nation, an online publication that has been encouraging Singaporeans to read fiction since 2010.