Innovative era, antiquated answers

The Kenya Film Classification Board Ag CEO, Mr Christopher Wambua during a press conference. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) sent an unpleasantly shocking email to Kenyan content creators on Friday.

The severe, 'in-no-loose-terms' warning from KFCB required content creators to fully comply with the licensing provisions of the Film and Stage Plays Act.
Their purported violations of Sections 4 and 15 of the Film and Stage Plays Act served as the letter's foundation.

The problematic parts required content creators to get filming licenses and submit their videos to KFCB for examination and classification before sharing them on various platforms. Almost as if on cue, public uproar quickly followed from the content creator community with concerns and questions.

Let us not forget that the Film and Stage Plays Act, which is the topic of this entire discussion, was passed in 1988 and underwent its most recent amendment in 2012.

The Act defines a film as ‘a cinematographic film, recorded video cassette film, recorded video discs, any recorded audiovisual medium, and includes any commentary (wherever spoken and whether the person speaking appears in the film or not), and any music or other sound effect, associated with the film, and any part of a film’.

It further provides that ‘making a film’ means the ‘acts of photographing, performing or otherwise taking part in or arranging any scenes or episodes for the purpose of the production of a film and includes the recording of a film on a video cassette, video disc or other audiovisual medium’.

It is therefore safe to infer from these provisions that a film is any recording made in an audiovisual medium where said work involves photography and arranging of scenes or episodes to include within a production for a film.

Are content creators filmmakers?

It begs the question of whether work developed just for online viewers and specialized to the more popular social platforms qualifies as a film. Do content creators fall within the purview of KFCB? Are content creators filmmakers?

First, keep in mind that digital content development is not always organized. It is a mostly spontaneous enterprise that relies on spur of the moment creativity; this implies fast decision-making and sudden bursts of brilliance and originality.

Consequently, if all content creation is to be viewed through the prism of a 1988 Act of Parliament that mandates that filmmakers apply for a license before creating any content, provide a detailed description of every scene and the text of any spoken portions (if any), and then submit any changes made to the film for approval, there is little to no room for creativity.

Assuming that all online content has a written script is both ambitious and counterproductive to creativity.

Second, in the digital era, content is considered as a valuable commodity that is often produced in large quantities for quick distribution and even faster consumption by audiences, transforming content creators into product manufacturers who must work within the constraints of demand and supply.

As a result, content creators rely on views to measure their success. That is why there is a slightly disputed claim that a content creator is only as good as their statistics. To generate revenue, they must continually retain and expand audience. Said viewership can only be maintained by regular posting, which would suffer if each item required the submission of a script and approval from KFCB.

Further, to register as a local filmmaker with KFCB (being a prerequisite before seeking a license), the regulations presuppose that all content creators own trading entities.

To apply for registration by KFCB as a ‘local filmmaker’ one has to submit their Company’s certificate of incorporation, CR12 and Company profile. Well, this is not always the case for content creators as for most; their name and image are all the branding they need.

Additionally, these social platforms i.e. Youtube Tiktok etc. have self-regulated community guidelines against harmful content. Thus, further regulation from the KFCB introduces the aspect of double regulation, which is superfluous and, to use academic parlance, a pointless endeavor.

Moreover, KFCB categorizes filming permits as TV series, full-length feature films, short production documentaries, television commercials, music videos, corporate videos, infomercials, travelogues, short films, testimonials, TV Series Episodes, and webisodes.

The categories give much too much leeway for judgment on whether the content falls under any of the aforementioned categories.

To answer these questions, we must first define the differences between a film maker and a content creator. Unlike film production, which typically involves longer formats and intricate storytelling techniques, content creation allows for shorter, more concise pieces of information that audiences can easily consume.

In conclusion, content creators are not hobbyists; they are tax-paying individuals. Given the rise in creators within this space, legislation needs to be updated to accommodate the sector.

The fact that we still haven’t legally defined who a ‘content creator’ is, yet are seeking compliance, shows that we are putting the cart before the horse. It's high time we stopped playing catch-up in the digital creative space and started being proactive.

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