Singapore national broadcaster fined over blackface in drama

Singapore's national broadcaster was fined for airing racist content over an internet drama episode that featured a Chinese actor with black face make-up, the city-state's media regulator said Thursday.

Mediacorp was fined Sg$5,500 ($3,900) by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) over the segment in its Chinese language web-only series "I Want To Be A Star", about bit part actors in the entertainment industry, which caused outrage online.

"IMDA assessed that the segment was racially insensitive and constituted racial stereotyping that might offend certain segments of the community," the regulator said, noting that the broadcaster had been swift to remove the offending content and had "taken remedial action to prevent a recurrence".

While the show itself did not attract huge interest, news of the apparently discriminatory episode touched a nerve over stereotyping in the mainly ethnic Chinese city and caused a storm of online criticism.

Mediacorp "has always been making racist jokes about minorities like Filipinos and Indians and passing them as just caricatures", one commenter, Anthony, said on Twitter.

When contacted, Mediacorp directed AFP to an apology issued in October.

"We're sorry for the blackface portrayal. We take race-related issues very seriously and that portrayal should not have happened," said Anil Nihalani, who heads Toggle, the streaming website that hosted the series.

"We've removed the offensive scenes from the programme and will ensure something like that doesn't happen again."

Affluent Singapore has large Malay Muslim and Indian populations, with strict rules against hate speech.

Often ridiculed as a "nanny state" for its tradition of social control, the city-state has eased censorship in recent years and become an Asian entertainment hub.

But television programmes, movies and stage productions remain subjected to ratings by the media regulator and authorities say the population is still largely conservative.