ST: Magazine to tighten access

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Magazine to tighten access

by M. Nirmala
The publisher of Manazine, a men's lifestyle magazine, has moved to limit access to the publication following complaints by concerned parents over its content and easy availability. The decision to issue subscribers with cards, which must be shown at selected outlets where the magazine can be picked up, follows talks with the Media Development Authority (MDA), the regulating authority. This 'controlled distribution' approach adopted by the publisher will also see copies of the magazine sent by post to subscribers, who pay $25 a year for six issues.

Mr Arjan Nijen Twilhaar, 32, the publisher and chief editor of Manazine, said that previously, the 10,000 printed copies of the magazine were distributed free at a number of locations. These included theatres, bars, art galleries and restaurants. But that changed after an Aug 11 meeting called by the MDA. At the meeting, Mr Arjan was informed that the MDA had received complaints from concerned parents about the magazine's homosexual content and its easy accessibility at outlets patronised by the general public. The MDA also highlighted some pages and 'we were also told to be sensitive to society's reactions to the gay issue. We listened to the advice and made sure that we do not cross the line,' he told The Straits Times.

Ms Casey Chang, the MDA's assistant director for corporate and marketing communications, confirmed the meeting and said yesterday that the authority also remindeded Mr Arjan that local magazines should not promote homosexuality as a lifestyle. This is not the first time the magazine, first published last October, has run into problems. It withdrew most of the 10,000 copies of its third issue in March following a public complaint.

But the light touch used by the media regulator appears to be in line with last year's recommendations by the Censorship Review Committee. In suggesting that a calibrated approach be taken so as to ensure that changes do not move ahead of society's mainstream values, it recommended that approved adult publications could be sold through controlled channels.

But sexually explicit magazines, such as Playboy, should stay banned, it added. Associate Professor Ang Peng Hwa, dean of the Nanyang Technological University's School of Communication and Information, noted the light touch taken by the MDA in dealing with the publisher. In this case, instead of having access to the magazine denied altogether, the publisher has been left to 'self-manage' access to the publication, he said.