The module for film licensing in Kenya is archaic, barbaric and punitive

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  • 3 years ago
  • Posted: May 22, 2018 at 3:08 pm

The fact that the module for film licensing in Kenya has serious problems was brought to public attention when a week ago, on Monday May 14, 2018, Kenya Film Classification Board published a notice that all filmmakers in Kenya must, by May 28, 2018, obtain a license before they can make any film(s).

film licensing in Kenya

This notice was not well received by almost all filmmakers and the public at large, with many arguing that the Board was overstepping its mandate – classification of films. Actually a Kenyan by the name Haroun Risa went ahead to put up an online petition that demands for the disbandment of KFCB, and repeal Cap 222 of the laws of Kenya, a petition that has so far garnered 2,753 signatures out of the 1,000 targeted signatures.

I on the other hand came to see the reasoning behind the licensing, and accepted the fact that all businesses ought to operate under stipulated laws; then two things happened: 1. KFCB clarified that even films made for the Internet and Social Media platforms must be licensed and 2. I went through the form containing the Requirements for Filming in Kenya, and that’s how I came to conclude that the module for film licensinging in Kenya is archaic, barbaric and punitive.

The module for film licensing in Kenya is archaic

The module for film licensing in Kenya requires that a filmmaker like myself obtains a license for every film to be made. In the form titled “Requirements for Filming in Kenya” linked to above, it is required for a filmmaker to provide the title and subject matter of the project to be filmed, alongside stating the format and the duration of the final film. What these requirements clearly indicate is that the licenses to be obtained are for individual films to be made, requirements that are definitely punitive.

When this module is looked at keenly, it is easy to see why the film licensing module is barbaric and punitive. Take as an example a film maker who makes short films every week. For such a filmmaker, he will be required to apply and pay for a license that costs Kshs 5,000. In addition to that, he will be required to also pay Kshs 1,000 for every day he is to shoot his short film. Assuming the short film takes him one day to shoot, then the amount he is required to part with for licensing is kshs 6,000. In one year, the short film maker will have parted with no less than Kshs 72,000 – even if the films being made have no commercial value.

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The implication of this archaic, barbaric and punitive module has on YouTube and possibly other Internet platforms has been expounded by Tara Kay in a thread of tweets embedded below.

The tweet thread above however is not based on exposition of the Requirements for Filming in Kenya, but rather on a statement by KFCB Chairman Dr. Ezekiel Mutua who is on record saying that “Anyone in Kenya broadcasting any videos for public viewing (including on social media and the Internet) will be required to have a filming license by 28 May 2018”, wrote iAfrikan News team. “Speaking to media, Ezekiel Mutua, CEO at KFCB, emphasized that the regulation applies to any video, including those recorded using mobile phones, as long as it is meant for public exhibition. Mutua further explained that public exhibition includes publishing the videos on social media and the Internet”, the iAfrikan News team added.

It is okay to require filmmakers to obtain licenses, but …

The need for filmmakers to operate under a licensing regime is okay, well and good. Actually, whoever is making films without necessary permits and licenses ought to be sought, arrested, arraigned in court and fined or imprisoned. However, the film licensing module ought to be such that a filmmaker can pay a reasonable fee to make films for an entire year. For example, instead of requiring film makers to part with Kshs 5,000 every time they want to make a short film, or Kshs 15,000 every time they want to make a feature film, a standard annual fee of let’s say Kshs 10,000 ought to be the requirement.

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Having said that, it is important for the government and particularly KFCB to realise that not everyone who creates motion pictures does so as a filmmaker. To illustrate, I will use print journalism as an example. A print media owner is required to pay a number of licenses to operate her business. The journalists the media owner employs are also given journalism permits to collect and publish news, whether in the traditional manual print newspapers, or online a website. The technique used by these journalists to publish their works is writing.

Writing as a technique is however done by every human who can write, and anyone who can write is allowed to do so freely, without the need to seek a license for writing. If that were not the case, then those who tweet and write Facebook updates would be required to seek a license from Communication Authority and other bodies before they could publish “What’s in their minds” to the public. Requiring every person who can record a video to obtain a filming license is therefore akeen to requiring anyone who can write a Facebook update to obtain a print media ownership license; now given that most of those Facebook updates are set for Public readership.

I don’t know why KFCB considers Vlogging by anyone a business, when it is clear that there are those who have things in their minds that they could write as Facebook status updates, but instead prefer to voice whatever they had in mind in form of motion pictures recorded through smartphone cameras.

The call to have everyone who intends to create videos to obtain licenses must be reconsidered, and film licensing module must be revised

I hope that the fact that Kenya’s film licensing module is archaic, barbaric and punitive is now very clear. We cannot operate in a society that punishes creatives who are mostly the youth, but a society that encourages exploration of creative ideas which is not limited to filming. A licensing module that punishes those who are supposed to develop an industry must be discarded, and a new and a better one adopted. Professional film makers ought to be given an easy way to get licenses, and encouraged to pursue their filmmaking talent without unnecessary hindrances. In this regard, not only should we annualise the film making licenses, but must also discard the Kshs 1,000 required for every day a film maker is out in the field making films. It should be a requirement that once a filmmaker has obtained the annual filming license, he will be free to go out in the field to do his filming, with the only payment to be done being a payment to the County Government in order to obtain necessary public facilities like roads, parks, and others.

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In as much as professional filmmakers must obtain licenses to operate their businesses, it cannot be logical or even practical to require that everyone who wants to record a video for public consumption must also be licensed. As I have tried to explain, there are videos that are recorded for personal amusement, real time happenings e.g. a woman being raped in a public bus (remember the incidence?) or a bridge collapsing due to the ongoing floods. The personal amusement videos and random events that happen in the vicinity of a person having a smartphone should be video recorded, and it will be absurd if we required every Kenyan who owns a smartphone to obtain a filming license.

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