SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: At a stakeholder breakfast held on 16 November in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, South Africa’s content regulator, the Film and Publication Board (FPB), announced its new guidelines and an online classification system to be launched on 1 January 2013. The FPB also released its Annual Report for the 2011/2012 financial year.
During this period the FPB was instrumental in the closure of 215 illegal operations and 300 joint raids conducted with the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
In addition the FPB conducted 6,165 compliance inspections and completed 5,419 classifications of films and games. The FPB reached 200,000 South African citizens through outreach and awareness programmes. Some 370,182 illegal content items were confiscated and destroyed.
The FPB received an amount of R65,458 as grant funding for 2011/2012 from its executive authority, the Department of Home Affairs.
FPB CEO Yoliswa Makhasi told stakeholders at the breakfast that the basis of the regulator’s work was tied in with the constitution and its provisions around the freedom of speech and expression and the protection of children.
“The FPB is here to balance the democratic rights given to individuals and society. Our mandate is the regulation of content during its creation, possession, marketing and distribution. We’ve been in existence for 14 years and we’re a public entity. If the FPB makes a decision that you don’t like you can lodge a complaint to the tribunal.
“We have a nine-member council which meets on a quarterly basis and a database of 40 classifiers to draw from. If someone submits content to the FPB we put together a committee of three classifiers to attend to it.’
Makhasi stressed that the FPB’s role was to ensure efficient and effective consumer protection through the regulation of media content, while empowering the public – especially children – through robust information sharing.
“We have to protect children from exposure to harmful content and prevent their being used in the creation of adult material,’ she said. “
Makhasi commented that the growth in technology and the introduction of new media technologies have introduced new demands on the business model and classification methods of the FPB. “For instance, adult content is now easily available on the Internet and content is now no longer confined to traditional distribution models.
“In the global context there is a need to embrace technology in order to monitor and regulate content. We have to continuously respond to changing models in the industry and now need a much a quicker turnaround time – 14 days – for the classification process.
“The excitement around new media has got so intense that it is making people expose too much about themselves. Employees tweet and put postings on Facebook about their bosses and then get fired. Copyright law is still the overriding principle that guides the FPB and it is controlled by the Department of Trade & Industry, who we consult when reviewing our legislation.’
According to Makhasi, the FPB’s tool for online classification is currently in the test phase and will implemented full scale on 1 January 2013. The FPB’s new guidelines were implemented on 15 November.
She noted that there is a need for greater consumer education regarding classifiable elements. “A case in point is that we have added an extra category in our classification system to deal with sexual violence. The most important message we have for South Africans is to self-regulate how content is accessed in your home,’ concluded Makhasi.
Council chairperson Thoko Mpumlwana added that everyone assembled at the breakfast was there for a common purpose – to protect children and ensure their future.
Mpumlwana continued: “We organised this breakfast to launch our Annual Report for 2011 / 2013. The FPB is accountable to parliament but we also believe we’re accountable to you, the stakeholders from the media industry and civil society. You’ve made it possible to for us to meet our targets.
“I heard a meaningful quote last night which I thought pertinent to share with you: “To achieve great things, first dream.’ This is relevant to FPB because our nation is a result of a struggle that started as a dream for a free society. In 1996 – a social contract was signed in the country – the Constitution for a democratic society. Democracy allows us “to be’.
“The floodgates opened after South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994 but democracy is noisy and complex. So we need institutions and laws to keep things in check. Democracy is not meant to be a free-for-all situation.
“As the FPB we classify content and inform the public so that they can make their choice. We strive for non-racialism and no-sexism because we are all equal in a democratic society. We exist to give some balance to society.’
Mpumlwana stressed that the FPB classifies information regarding what is permissible and child pornography is totally non-permissible, as well as illegal in terms of the Sexual Offences Act and the Child Act.
“If we as adults want to watch pornography then that is our choice but we have to protect our children – let our young ones be young; let them grow up in a safe society. Changes in technology and new media have placed bigger challenges on us. No we belong to a global society so we believe that informing and talking to people is important. We have to agree that there is a difference between sexual acts and sexual violence in our classification.
“Our role is not to restrict anyone but to protect. We want to be partners with all of you gathered here today in our mandate to protect the public’s dignity and freedom,’ stated Mpumlwana.
To find out more about the FPB’s new guidelines and the online classification system see the January 2013 of the Screen Africa print magazine.
Report by Joanna Sterkowicz