Online content regulation: FPB publishes draft policy

On March 4 2015, the Film and Publication Board (FPB) published its Draft Online Regulatory Policy, thereby opening the process for public consultation on a proposed framework to give effect to the Film and Publications Act in relation to online content distribution in South Africa.

The proposed regulation raises a host of concerns for the online media and marketing industry, not least of which has been the lack of consultation with stakeholders. Having had sight of an earlier, unreleased draft of the policy document, the IAB SA wrote to the FPB to raise its concerns and to request an opportunity to meet the FPB to make formal submissions.

At the draft policy media briefing, the FPB responded to questions regarding industry-wide consultation by indicating that national public consultation roadshows would begin in April 2015 to allow public input on the policy.

As published in the Government Gazette on March 4 2015, submissions can now be made within 90 days (by 4pm on July 8 2015). Submissions can be emailed to policy.submissions@fpb.org.za or hand delivered to the FPB head office at ECO Glade 2, 420 Witch Hazel Street, ECO Park, Centurion, 0169, marked for the attention of Ms Tholoana Ncheke. The draft policy is available on the FPB’s website.

Citing media convergence as one of the challenges to its classification activities, the FPB believes the policy will address such challenges.

Driven by the imperative of voluntary independent co-regulation of content, and in response to the proposed regulation, the IAB SA issued a press statement on online media regulation. The IAB SA has entered into discussions with the South African Press Council to consider the creation of a cross-platform news media code of ethics and voluntary editorial content regulatory system to apply to news content in print and online publications.

Although the IAB SA has its own code, it currently lacks a formal complaints adjudication and content regulation infrastructure. The Press Council has been dealing with members’ online publications in consultation with the IAB SA.

To keep up with developments in this regard, subscribe to the IAB SA’s Legal Brief mailer, which will keep members updated on developments with the envisaged joint code and the FPB’s online content regulation policy.

Proposed amendments to the Films and Publications Act are currently under review with the State Law Adviser. Dominic Cull from Ellipsis reports that although the FPB was expecting a response to the amendments during March 2015, aiming to finalise the amendments this year, such amendments are unlikely to be implemented before the first quarter of 2017.

The next issue of Legal Brief will look at the impact of the FPB’s policy on the online media and marketing industry.