Despite its efforts to promote Singapore as a creative media content hub, a number of laws, including the banning of political films, has been a fly in the ointment of the government’s claims to creativity.

Yet moves appear afoot to amend the bill to ban political films, with Minister for Information Communications and the Arts Lee Boon Yang indicated he would table a bill to amend the Films Act early next year. (See AFP article for details)

PM Lee’s National Day Rally speech quoted in the Straits Times, however, indicates that the law will be softened rather than removed.

…we’ve got to allow political videos but with some safeguards.

According to the Straits Times article, factual footage, documentaries and recordings of live events will now be allowed, but ‘political commercials…of purely made-up material, partisan stuff, footage distorted to create a slanted impression’, should still be off-limits, thought the PM.

The PM’s speech also pointed to the ‘very restrictive’ laws that banned political blogging posting of political material on the internet during the 2006 election. Does this mean that opponents will be able to use the internet to distribute campaign material for the 2011 election as the Straits Times indicates?

Yet days after the rally speech, opposition leaders have been charged over a 2006 illegal procession or assembly without permit. See the International Herald Tribune article for details.

And PM Lee Hsien Loong himself to these ‘safeguards’ by taking a libel suit against the Far Eastern Economic Review further. The Singapore PM now charges that the 2006 article in the magazine implied he was corrupt, rather than that he simply condoned corruption by his father, former PM Lee Kuan Yew. The FEER story that motivated the Lees to file suit against the magazine and its author was entitled “Singapore’s Martyr: Chee Soon Juan”, and had quoted opposition politician Chee attacking the Lees. See Reuters article for more details.

The National Rally Day announcements by the Prime Minister and the tabling of the bill to amend the ban on political films is good news for the liberalising of society in Singapore, which will further encourage creativity and open critical analysis. But the big question is whether the Singapore government can deliver on these promises and not let the de jure amendments be undermined by de facto details and ‘safeguards’. To date, the actions by the courts and the PM himself have done little to ressure Singaporeans that change is on its way.

The UK games industry has been vocal throughout the year protesting the inaction of government amid declining domestic production and developers in Canada receiving generous tax incentives.

Yet is it accurate to blame government inaction for the industry’s decline? Some industry participants survey in politics.co.uk article UK games industry ‘dead man walking’ believe it is.

Richard Wilson, Chief executive of Tiga, said: “Without real measures to turn the tide, we’ll see our best people follow the money overseas to where governments are more willing to invest in the future. A great British industry could become a dead man walking, just like the British film industry the before government gave it a tax credit.

Something that is not often mentioned in lobbying for government assistance is the difference in cost of living (and therefore labour costs) between London and several Canadian cities where major game developers have established studios. Regardless of tax concessions and wage subsidies, low living expenses make locations attractive to multinationals, and may also make it easier for employees to setup their own companies.

Tax-based incentives that are based on cultural production are also a highly inefficient instrument for industry to rely on. Assessing the cultural component of any one game to qualify for assistance could well be an arbitrary endeavour, and the stipulation for games to contain cultural content is bound to distort production decisions away from market preferences.

Production-based tax incentives and subsidies tend to appeal to small, independent developers, whereas larger studios particularly first-party studios linked to publishers are far more concerned about the supply of skilled talent.

Are appealing for tax incentives for local producers really the best way to enhance the international competitiveness of the industry?

Japanese, Korean, and recently Chinese TV dramas have all boomed in export markets, if only for short-lived waves. But with all nations eager to increase exports of creative content, focus from within the industry has been drawn to intra-regional co-productions.

In an article in the Daily Yomiuri, Yoshikazu Suzuki outlines the prospect of a joint Japanese-South Korean TV drama production mooted at the third TV Drama Forum of East Asia held in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.

Such collaboration could see Japanese scriptwriters, for example, teaming up with Korean creative, technical, and acting talent.

The project emerged as momentum grew among the Japanese and South Korean participants toward jointly producing dramas. The project involves seven popular Japanese scriptwriters, including Yoshikazu Okada, Yumiko Inoue and Shizuka Oishi, who will write original scripts with settings in South Korea, as well as South Korean directors and actors. The project calls for each episode, which will last up to two hours, to be broadcast by TV stations in both countries after being shown in cinemas.

This would allow entry of Japanese co-produced drama onto Korean terrestrial broadcast, (the article indicates Japanese drama is still banned) and provide the Korean industry with an injection of writing talent.

It would be interesting seeing a similar use of scriptwriters filtering through to other sectors of the Korean content industry such as animation, where studios have often been met with great acclaim for their technical prowess but have fallen short of receiving similar praise for the stories that hold together original home-grown animation.

Australian censors have banned a London-made game for being too violent, according to the London Free Press.

The article has quoted the Board as labeling the game “violent and sometimes gruesome game with a sinister storyline and ominous outcome.”

“The violence and aggression inflicted upon the protagonist is of a high level, naturalistic and not stylized at all.”

With no R18+ rating for games in Australia, it is not surprising that games depicting ‘mature’ scenes are not given a classification. Introducing an R18+ rating for  games (like there is for film and video) would allow adult gamers the freedom to choose, and parents with game-playing children the information not to choose games with explicit violence or mature themes.

An article from the Courier Mail

Somewhere during my time in Japan and amidst my readings into the Japanese content industry, I noticed I began to start calling what I had previously called the “content industry” and “content industries”, the “contents industry” and even “contents industries”.

While this flows from the Japanese pronunciation (kontentsu), Japanese publications also refer to the industry and the products as ‘contents’.

After leaving Japan, I managed to drop this ‘s’ and began to find those ‘s’s glaring out at me from the writings of colleagues in Japan.

Yet, there could actually be some value in that extra ‘s’. Despite its grammatical awkwardness, the addition of an ‘s’ does at least distinguish the industry from the adjective ‘content’, which promises some value when introducing the concept to people for the first time. (‘So you are saying that the industry is very content?’ ‘No, I am saying that it is the content industry!’)

A very belated Happy New Year!

While nutting out a narrative on Australian game developers lobbying the government for support, in contrast with the Japanese game industry’s disdain for any state involvement, this one from the US was brought to my attention.

Video Game Industry Seeks Political Clout – New York Times

Capitalizing on its improved respectability, the video game industry intends to establish a political action committee to donate money to game-friendly politicians and candidates.

Mr. Gallagher said the PAC would probably donate $50,000 to $100,000 this year to national candidates, an amount he described as commensurate with similar committees associated with the film and music industries. Such political action committees are generally financed personally by industry executives rather than by corporations and under federal law are limited to giving $5,000 to each candidate per election.

Mr. Kotick described the new PAC as “a great first step” but he cautioned that the film and music industries would still enjoy far more sway in Washington than the game industry, not least because “people like Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen help raise millions of dollars for candidates.”