Department of Communications
The communications department has stressed that the intention of the Films and Publications Amendment Bill was not to censor but rather to classify accordingly in line with international trends while taking the local context and challenges into consideration.
The department emphasised this while briefing the communications committee on responses to submissions received during hearings on the bill held at the end of August 2016.
The bill was tabled in parliament in November 2015.
It seeks to:
• amend the Films and Publications Act of 1996 in order to insert and amend certain definitions;
• provide for the establishment of, the composition of, and appointment of, members of the Penalty Committee;
• provide for the powers and duties of the Penalty Committee;
• regulate online distribution of digital films and digital games;
• extend the functions of the Film and Publication Board to encompass monitoring compliance with the Films and Publications Act;
• include online distributors as having to comply with the Films and Publications Act;
• revise and further regulate the functions of compliance officers regarding the entering and inspection of premises and facilities in which the business of the sale, hire or exhibition of films or games is being conducted;
• further regulate the classification of publications, films and games;
• provide for independent industry classification bodies to be accredited by the Film and Publication Board;
• provide for classification of publications, films and games by the independent industry classification bodies;
• provide for foreign classification systems and approval thereof by the Film and Publication Board;
• provide for the use of classification ratings issued by a foreign classification authority or body;
• provide for the right of appeal against classifications issued by independent industry classification bodies;
• provide for exemptions in respect of online distribution of films and games;
• further provide for the obligations of internet service providers to curb the use of their services in advocating racism and hate speech;
• revise and strengthen penal provisions; and
• provide for matters connected
According to the department, submissions were received from a number of stakeholders including broadcasting, telecoms and ISP industry, concerned organisations and groups, regulator and enforcement agencies, non-governmental organisations and civil society sector organisations.
The department emphasised that the industry and the Film and Publication Board (FPB) require legal and regulatory clarity on whether the regulatory regime used for physical content distribution applies to the online content distribution environment.
The intention behind the classification system is to protect the public from content “that is considered to be injurious to the public good, and to provide guidance to families about what they choose to view or play”.
The department pointed out that it supports the proposal that the FPB will only deal with online or internet content networks and service matters while the Independent Communications Authority will be the only entity regulating broadcasting content.
The department also proposed that the criminalisation of child pornography should be dealt with in the Sexual Offences Act as opposed to the Films and Publications Act.