Following the notice by Kenya Film Classification Board on the 14th of May, Kenyans
and especially the youth have taken to social media to raise their complaints. The notice was made to all film makers and content creators to comply with the stipulations of the Films and Stage Plays Act CAP 222. The Films and Stage Plays Act CAP 222 requires film makers to obtain licenses for all filming whose content is meant for public exhibition.
According to the board, the license fees are as follows: For filming agents 12000pa, license for a documentary/short drama/feature/skits 5000pa, license for full length feature film (40 minutes) 15000pa and per-day filming fees of 1000 shillings.
In a tweet on his official handle, the KFCB CEO Dr. Ezekiel Mutua yesterday said, “All film making for commercial purposes and for public exhibition must have licenses. We have published a PUBLIC NOTICE in the newspapers to ensure that no one will claim ignorance once caught. More information can be obtained from the KFCB website. @InfoKfcb @moscakenya” He further added that, “Beginning next week the police will start a crackdown on illegal film makers in Kenya. @InfoKfcb @moscakenya @CSRashidEchesa @NellyMuluka @PresidentKE.
This issue has generated a heated debate with film makers, YouTubers and vloggers as well as social media users calling the board to task and asking for its disbandment. With a majority of these being the youth who use these platforms to showcase their talent and to grow their brands, the imposed license fees mean that they will not be able to produce and distribute content. In an emotional video on her YouTube channel, Teresia kamwende Murithi shares here disappointments after learning that she needs to pay to produce content which she earns nothing from. The video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=at3Q2mDRcF8
On Twitter, KOT have fanned the debate and are asking for the disbandment of KFCB using #OutWithKFCB and #DisbandKFCB hashtags.
Also commenting about the issue are film experts. “Most of the laws and institutions we inherited from our colonial Masters had been put in place to prohibit any activity meant to empower the African hence they were established in such a way that the Colonial government would benefit from anything done by the Africans. While most other institutions have been decolonised to some extent, the creative industry hasn’t been as vibrant as now. The policies and institutions therefore haven’t been challenged to the extent that they change to benefit Kenyans involved in the creative industry. Digital technology brought in another change that hasn’t been reflected in our laws, policies and institutions. An overhaul of the laws with the view of enhancing rather than prohibiting creative spaces and works is necessary. These policies should be developed by people in these industry otherwise it’s not wrong to license nor to penalize as Mutua is doing. Just that he is enforcing Kenyan laws that were established without looking at how it might inhibit growth of the industry” Mr Bii, a Film and Theatre lecturer at Moi University also adds “KFCB is using colonial laws to prohibit productions. The law has to be changed so that it can enhance productions. It would be fair if government would pump in money to support the industry first before taxing it.”
Brian Munene a renowned filmmaker opines, “Cyber space, especially YouTube and Facebook are platforms for expression. No country in the world, charges filming fees for social media Vlogs because they are not meant for public viewership or broadcasting. If we go down this road, then we will eventually start charging for social media pictures. I personally believe this is an infringement of free speech and will kill an emerging industry.”
Young people have expressed their concerns about this and here are but a few of their sentiments:
“My country has a high unemployment rate, with the government fully aware of this and trying to bridge the gap by their famous Big 4 project. How is it that the very government is working to squash efforts by young people to create their own jobs? What kind of madness is this?” Pierra Jecy asks.
Evie Vara a YouTuber says “So as an artist right now on top of the ridiculous amount of money I have to invest in a business whose returns are just saddening, I now need to pay KFCB to promote content via video because a social media video qualifies me as a film maker according to them. Yet getting Kenyan media to play 70% Kenyan content is a no no! How are the Kenyan youth supposed to survive anyway? Am at a loss.”
Jamlick Kyalo opines that “KFCB cannot guide, license or ban content that appears on a platform (s) that the communications Act and the requisite institutions do not license. YouTube/Facebook and Instagram have their own rules and policies.”
“It is absurd and funny that as a nation we cannot afford jobs for over 45% of the young people and when young people try getting innovative so as to at least earn a living they are now taxed. This is simply thuggery” adds Shikoh kihika
Collins Mwanga conclusively states, “You can’t go about gagging young innovative minds in the name of regulations and laws. Creative minds should be allowed to do what they want as long as it’s within the morally acceptable standards.”
As the debate continues it is the hope for many that it pushes for the review of CAP 222. Nairobi County Senator Johnson Sakaja has this to say about the law:
The board however denies claims these licenses affect YouTubers and bloggers.