by Thinus Ferreira
South Africa’s Film and Publication Board (FPB) is using the country’s new Film and Publications Amendment Act, known as the “Internet Censorship Act”, to launch a review of the 16 VSNL content classification of Showmax’s local telenovela The Wife after “online public concerns” following last week’s lurid sex scene between Khanyi Mbau and Mondli Makhoba that shocked viewers.
Showmax subscribers were quick to record the graphic sex scene on their mobile phones and to make screengrabs which were then posted across social media like Twitter and Facebook, and shared on Whatsapp.
President Cyril Ramaphosa made the FPB’s controversial Film and Publications Amendment Act, dubbed the “Internet Censorship Bill” and “Internet Censorship Act” law on 1 March this year.
The new law gives expanded powers to the FPB to clamp down on online content in South Africa and expanding the scope of the FPB far beyond classifying and regulating TV and film content but also to act as a regulator of almost all online content – including social media – published in South Africa.
The FPB says that as a “preliminary step” and following “online public concerns regarding an episode of the Showmax series The Wife” it brought it to MultiChoice’s attention that it’s reviewing the compliance of its video streaming service with the FPB’s ratings system, with MultiChoice that has the “opportunity to respond to these in writing in 7 days”.
Showmax self-classified The Wife as 16 VSNL which it is allowed to but the FPB says it has the power through the Act, to to regularly audit the distributor’s compliance with its rating system and hear and/or adjudicate public complaints regarding classified material”.
“The 16 VSNL assigned by Showmax to The
Wife will be compliance checked against the justification given by Showmax in the
classification report that all distributors with online distributor agreements to self-classify
need to complete,” the FPB says.
“Should the review of the classification rating of the episode be found to
incorrect, the FPB has the powers in terms of section 18J of the FP Amendment Act to reclassify any material that was previously classified in terms of the Act.”
Dr Mashilo Boloka, FPB acting CEO, says that the FPB is “worried about the distribution and wider circulation of this clip by
members of the public via social media”.
“These clips have the potential to cause harm if accessed by children on unregulated
“The Films and Publications Amendment Act does not in any way limit the sharing of content by
members of the public as long as the content is not harmful, illegal and/or prohibited by the
Act. We will in due course publish guidelines relating to the sharing of content via digital
platforms to the members of the public so that they know what is permissible within the new
law,” Mashilo Boloka says.
“The spread of this material on social media
platforms underlines the need for vigilance by the FPB to curb the illegal distribution of
harmful and prohibited materials so as to protect the public, including children.”
putting in systems to monitor non-compliance with the new act, including the Online Rapid
Response Team and the Enforcement Committee.”
Laura Cooke, Showmax head of publicity, told TVwithThinus on Tuesday morning in response to a media query that “Showmax has
noted the media statement of the Film and Publication Board regarding The Wife“.
our shows are rated according to the FPB classification guidelines. We will
provide the FPB our response within the required time-frame.”