Measures mete out to curb broadcaster activity are not uncommon in Asia, and surprisingly they could sometimes be enforced not by regulators themselves but by operators whom broadcasters provide content for. Take Vietnam for example. On May 17, we reported about the pulling of 21 international channels by Vietnam’s DTH operator K+, who says it was doing this “in compliance with regulation” – only that it remains the only operator in Vietnam who has done so. CASBAA calls it a “confusion” that needs rectification. As of press time, only 7 of 21 channels have restored their broadcasts (read our country focus on Vietnam on page 22 for more on this story).
Then there are penalties that are directly enforced by a regulator’s “iron hand”. Comedy Central in India was ordered off the air by its Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for ten days, from May 25 – June 4, following a violation of the programming code on taste and decency issues regarding scenes from two shows Comedy Central Presents and Popcorn. Following an appeal by broadcaster Viacom 18, the court has granted a temporary lift on the ban.
News organisations have not been spared either. Singapore’s MDA has issued a new licensing scheme (effective June 1) that requires ten news websites from the mainstream press to be licensed. Licencees have to put up a SGD50,000 bond and comply with a 24-hour “take-down” notice should their content “threaten the social fabric and national interests” of the country. Among the list of ten announced, MediaCorp’s news channel ChannelNews Asia is one of them.
Is there a place for government regulation in the ever-liberal broadcast climate within Asia? Broadcasters continue to play an intricate “game” with regulators. Between a need to constantly dazzle an increasingly desensitized Asian audience to conforming to inflexible content regulations, one can see how broadcasters can be caught between a rock and a hard place.
Still, a head-on clash with local governments is seldom the way to go, and broadcasters often make some headway by way of negotiations and appeals. A+E Network’s Lifetime Asia, which appears on our cover story, is a channel that could potentially (with some risqué femaleskewed content) be perceived as controversial. Of the five territories announced for its June launch (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Macau), Malaysia’s Astro was the last provider to be announced. We can only guess that the amount of content regulation required could be a dealmaker. But it pays to wait, and work on a mutually-beneficial deal; which can happen.
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