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Hearings on the Films and Publications Amendment Bill in the Pipeline

August 23, 2016

Department of Communications

Public hearings on the Films and Publications Amendment Bill are on the cards for the end of August 2016.

The bill is currently before the portfolio committee on communications.

It was tabled in parliament in November last year.

The bill was approved by cabinet in August 2015.

The cabinet statement issued at the time emphasised that the amendments sought to provide for technological advances, especially online and social media platforms, so as to protect children from exposure to disturbing and harmful media content in all platforms (physical and online).

The bill 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 a communications department briefing, the portfolio committee received 32 submissions on the bill.

The committee also plans to start deliberations on the bill towards the end of September 2016.

Meanwhile, the communications minister, Faith Muthambi, has called for stronger government communication at the municipal level.

Speaking at a recent meeting with Government Communication and Information System, the minister said that there was an urgent need to place skilled communicators within municipalities to improve communication around service delivery.

“It is important for all of us to understand that communications in itself is service delivery. To communicate is to deliver a critical service that empowers citizens to participate in democratic government. If our people are not sufficiently informed about how the public purse is spent, it should not come as a surprise when from time to time we get various community protests”. said Muthambi.

The minister also stressed that regular engagements between government and citizens were crucial.