Government set on regulating YouTube, Netflix and other streaming services in South Africa

Communications minister Ayanda Dlodlo has confirmed that the government is close to revealing new regulations dealing with South Africa’s shift away from television to online streaming services.

Speaking at a briefing on the department of communications entities on Thursday, Dlodlo said that she would be presenting a draft white paper on the Audio-Visual and Digital Content Policy for SA to parliament shortly, before publishing it for public comment.

“The current(draft white paper) revises the Broadcasting Act 1999 to respond to the new challenges, the overall broadcasting paradigm that is changing and constitutes a decisive step by government to reflect and respond to the changes brought about by convergence over broadband networks,” said Dlodlo.

According to the minister, the white paper will update the broadcasting policy to:

  • Create a fairer environment for traditional broadcasters, video-on-demand providers and video-sharing platforms;
  • Promote South African content;
  • Promote diversity of voices in the media, nation building and social cohesion;
  • Propose approaches and strategies to deal with the broadcasting spectrum over the next years;
  • Propose new approaches to protect children, minors, and the vulnerable;
  • Limit availability and ability to tackle on/off line harmful material and hate speech better.

Online restrictions

Dlodlo also indicated that she would continue to push the Film and Publications Board (FPB) as a means of protecting children and consumers from exposure to harmful and illegal content online.

This will include extending the current rating system and content regulatory regime to online content-providing services (like Netflix, and other streaming services).

“The role of the FPB has previously been distinct as distribution of content that fell within the jurisdiction of FPB was easily identifiable,” she said. “Films were either distributed via VHS, DVD and in cinema, while publications were in your pre-packaged magazines and books.”

“With developments in technology however, much of the content has moved to online streaming or digital platforms. This has left a significant gap in the market. Consumers, and particularly children, now can access content that has not been appropriately classified and labelled.”

“This is particularly concerning when referring to adult content, which would be content rated 18 years and above, due to the explicit nature of the content.”

The Films and Publications Amendment Bill 2015 had previously come under scrutiny from members of industry and the public, over concerns that it would be used as a means of censorship for online content.

This includes specific instances where the FPB will be allowed to regulate user-generated content (such as YouTube videos, pictures, and music), and possibly the blocking of non-compliant online distributors at an ISP level.


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