Online Content Control in South Africa Emerges

The Film and Publications Board has selectively released a draft arrangement report, recommending that all online content distributed in South Africa must be classified by March 2016.


Yet it won’t be without unsettling a few feathers along the way. As of now there are concerns, in light of the fact that the agency has drafted this online regulation approach without counseling stakeholders and the expansiveness of its ambit could invite abuse.

The draft arrangement, which the Mail & Guardian has seen, obliges that, as of March 31 2016, nobody will be allowed to distribute digital content in South Africa unless it is classified in terms of the board’s guidelines, or a system accredited by the board, and aligned to its classification guidelines, and the Film and Publications Act and its classifications. The FPB logo must also be prominently displayed.

This regulation would unmistakably apply to major corporates, for example, Google and Apple, who face “sanctions” in the event that they don’t agree, however it could likewise influence bloggers or people posting feature cuts on the web, who now and again could confront legitimate activity.

The primary mandate of the FPB, formerly a censorship board under the apartheid regime, is to protect children from exposure to disturbing and harmful material, and premature exposure to adult experiences; to provide consumer advice to enable adults and the children in their care to make informed viewing, reading and gaming choices; and to make the use of children in and the exposure of children to pornography punishable.

Distribution Charge

The draft arrangement obliges that any individual who needs to distribute a film, game or certain publications online will have to apply for an online distribution agreement. A prescribed fee, determined by the minister, will be imposed and, after payment, the distributor can classify content on behalf of the board by using its classification guidelines and those of the FPB Act.

New regulations distributed in March in the not so distant future have endeavored to extend the classes of organizations that must register with the board. This incorporates online substance wholesalers, for which a charge of up to R750 000, to be controlled by the board, is payable.

“In all classification decisions for digital content, the online distributor must ensure that the board’s classification decision and logo is conspicuously displayed on the landing page of the website, the website catalogue of the online distributor’s landing page of the website, at the point of sale and during the streaming of the digital content,” the document states.

It will apply to any individual who circulates or displays online any film or diversion and certain distributions in South Africa, including online wholesalers of computerized film, recreations and certain productions, both by regional standards and globally.

Because of inquiries, Sipho Risiba, the boss operations officer of the board, said it would apply to all online merchants, with the exception of daily papers directed by the Press Council.

“Despite the fact that the Act exempts supporters who telecast content by means of satellite, with the exception of the show of X18 material/erotic entertainment, telecasters who additionally stream content online through the web will need to consent to this arrangement,” he said.

Rating Systems

The draft strategy says the board has entered “transitional” agreements with a few online merchants in South Africa who are utilizing arrangement rating systems not adjusted to the board’s rules and Act. The draft strategy says order course material and preparing will be conveyed to online merchants’ classifiers.

As per the draft, sanctions can be used as a last resort to prevent industry classifiers from repeatedly making misleading, incorrect or grossly inadequate classification decisions.

For made toward oneself substance, the draft strategy says the board will have the ability to request a chairman or any online stage to bring down substance that it considers possibly hurtful and irritating to offspring of specific ages. On the off chance that the substance is a feature cut on a worldwide stage, for example, Youtube, the board can elude it to its grouping advisory group for order.

It will be last and tying and the online wholesaler will be charged for the arrangement choice and, if not paid, could bring about legitimate move being made against the merchant.

The board, which falls under the division of interchanges, said the draft arrangement had been sent to all online wholesalers. Organizations, for example, Google, MTN, Vodacom, Times Media and Multichoice have gotten the arrangement however would not remark as they are concentrating on the archive.

Open for Input

Telkom and Altech were not able to confirm whether they had received the archive, which gives stakeholders a chance to respond by February 28 one year from now.

A source in a large corporate said the company was only aware of the draft policy in response to the M&G‘s email request for comment about it.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) was not sent a duplicate, in spite of the affiliation calling recently for the acquaintance of new regulations with is postponed until legitimate discussions about how to make a solid lawful and commonsense system had occurred.

A spokesperson for the communications department said it had just received a copy of the document and was studying it.

“The approach is not discharged or sanction up ’til now. What we have is a draft strategy that was sent to merchants for remarks and inputs,” said Risiba. “Workshops with industry and stakeholders are likewise gotten ready for the months of January and February 2015. From that point, the draft will be tabled before [the Fpb] gathering in March 2015 for last support.”

He said the record would be made open after that.


The draft approach plans to handle the difficulties postured to the board’s capacity to characterize and control content on the web, given that “media union” has generally changed the way substance is circulated and expended.

Dominic Cull, the administrative consultant to the ISPA, said shared substance dissemination had been ignored in the archive, demonstrating that fitting discussions with stakeholders and the diverse government offices were required “so as to have a comprehensive method and not one which concentrates on specialized arrangements and discovered to be questionable”.

He said one needed to ponder in regards to the aim of the draft arrangement.

“There is a discernment that legislature is trying to control the message which is conveyed to South Africans and developments in print and television media demonstrate this movement, and we ought to be concerned, particularly with the making of the new correspondences division,” he said. “Government may be looking to practice more noteworthy control of the message which could be imparted online.”

Previously, the board has attempted to order sites and craftsmanship, for instance, relegating a 16n (the proposed least age for survey as a result of nakedness) arrangement to The Spear, a dubious painting demonstrating an uncovered President Jacob Zuma.


Nicholas Hall, a partner at Michalsons, an authority law office, said the record contained a few positives, for example, the capacity to “self-arrange”, which looked to cure the moderate and challenging methodology of order at present.

“The real problem comes in the implementation of these ideals. It seems to be a massive money-making scheme. Every online distributor has to apply for a licence, and the minister, in conjunction with the board, can fully dictate what those fees are going to be. Then you have to have an in-house classifier trained by the FPB, who no doubt will get to dictate those fees too,” he said.

The huge wholesalers had vested business engages and were prone to consent, yet what was most upsetting identified with delivered toward oneself substance.

“Do we want to live in a society where they can decide if my home video needs to be classified or not, and charge me for it if they do. And if you don’t pay the bill, it’s a criminal offence?

“This is the same FPB who tried to classify websites and tried to classify artwork. The current regulation is written so broadly and it’s open to abuse,” Hall said. “What alarms me is this is deemed to be appropriate. It’s broad censorship by the board and we have no recourse.”

Risiba said the FPB chamber and a few stakeholders had contended unequivocally for the need to move from piecemeal reactions that connected the current order framework to new innovative advancement to one that was encircled in such a route, to the point that it could be adjusted to more extensive united media patterns.

‘Administrative Framework’

In light of these difficulties, the FPB committee in August 2014 sanction the board’s online substance regulation method, and the board had as of late concluded the survey of its enactment, the Films and Publications Amendment Bill 2014, which had “following been submitted to the clergyman of correspondences”, Risiba said.

“The Bill, once enacted and applied in conjunction with the approved online content regulation strategy, will bring about a legislative framework which will ensure a greater role in the classification of content by the FPB, using the FPB classification guidelines and the Act,” he said.

The center destinations of the technique are to illuminate and teach the group about the difficulties of advanced substance, to guarantee order and consistence checking of digitally conveyed substance, to band together with national and worldwide controllers on cross-fringe regulation, and to give innovation to the online substance regulation.

Cull said the engineering could allude to the sifting of substance.

At the point when put to Risiba, he said: “Separating is one of the gimmicks of the ICT [information interchanges technology] arrangements however what is consistently imagined is an answer that will empower the FPB to additionally arrange advanced substance and do online consistence checking, which incorporates the bringing down of unclassified and illicit substance.”

Risiba said worldwide best practice had been seen in drafting the approach.


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