Tue, Dec 28, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Publishers welcome temporary embargo on ratings penalties

DELAY The suspension of fines came as a surprise to some officials, while publishers said it was a `good start,' although the measure still needs work

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

The abrupt suspension of fines for violations of the new rating system for publications and video programs surprised government officials, although it was welcomed by publishers.

"It's a good start," said Hao Ming-yi (郝明義), chairman of Locus Publishing Company. "But there's a long way to go before the measure is amended in such a way that it caters more to the needs of both the publication industry and readers."

Bowing to pressure from the publication industry, Government Information Office (GIO) Director-General Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) announced on Friday that the issuance of fines would be delayed until July 1.

The Measure Governing the Rating Systems of Publications and Pre-recorded Video Programs (出版品及錄影節目帶分級辦法) officially took effect on Dec. 1.

Publishers were advised to abide by the law, although they will not be fined until July 1.

Hao said he agreed that "problematic" publications should be labeled to prevent young people reading or watching them, but that he did not think it was a good idea to impose a rating system.

"It violates the freedom of publication and freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution," he said. "It forces writers to exercise self-censorship, because they're afraid of stepping on a legal landmine."

Hao said that he has gathered over 80 signatures from members of the public who are opposed to the system.

A senior specialist at the GIO's publications department, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that he was surprised at Lin's decision.

According to the specialist, Lin consulted academics, publication industry leaders and child welfare groups on Friday morning to solicit their opinions on the new measure.

The rating system has led to a deluge of criticism from the publication industry, which described it as "harsh" and "vaguely defined."

The official said that, during Friday's meeting with Lin, industry leaders reiterated their opposition to the measure, while academics said that the stipulations should be more clearly defined.

The measure divides books and audio publications into two categories: general and restricted. Restricted publications should carry a label on the cover reading "R rated: Not available for those 18 or under." The size of the label may not take up less than one-50th of the total area of the cover.

The government official yesterday expressed pessimism over the possibility of more clearly defining the ratings measure.

"We can try to work toward that goal, but I doubt how feasible it is," he said, adding that Korea, Germany and Australia have similar definitions for restricted publications.

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