Ezekiel Mutua
Kenya
Kenya Film Classification Board
Kenya Film Commission
KFC
KFCB
Mutua

Whimsical rules will hurt the film industry

There can be no denying that the public needs to be protected from toxic content that does not conform to Kenyan law as well as the society’s ethical and cultural norms. Such regulations should be well thought-out so that they promote, rather than choke life out of the industry. That delicate balance is what necessitates official oversight of the film industry. However, the incessant clash between the Kenya Film Commission – the industry lobby – and the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), the regulator, points to the fact that something is not right in the sector.

The high level potential harm that a runaway film industry could cause has meant it can only serve society’s needs with some form of regulation. There can be no denying that the public needs to be protected from toxic content that does not conform to Kenyan law as well as the society’s ethical and cultural norms. Such regulations should be well thought-out so that they promote, rather than choke life out of the industry. That delicate balance is what necessitates official oversight of the film industry. However, the incessant clash between the Kenya Film Commission – the industry lobby – and the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), the regulator, points to the fact that something is not right in the sector. In the proper order of things, the two institutions ought to be working together to promote and grow Kenya’s nascent film industry and get the best from it. This is not to say that they should always agree on all industry issues. They can read from divergent scripts, but the differences should not degenerate to the extent that they become a stumbling block to the industry’s growth and long- term survival. KFCB chief executive Ezekiel Mutua sparked the latest clash with the introduction of a set of new licensing charges and tougher regulations for filmmakers that was met with a strongly worded KFC statement. KFC reckons that the move will cripple the industry and accused Mr Mutua of being obsessed with imposing a tax on every piece of art. These persistent differences must be resolved once and for all if this sector is to realize its immense potential. If indeed, Mr Mutua is attempting to introduce the new rules and levies without consultation, then he is overstepping his mandate and must be stopped in his tracks.

This is not the first time he has been accused of flouting the law with his overzealousness, especially with regard to morality and decency of productions. Setting a society’s moral compass and coming up with a body of laws and rules to govern the entertainment sector ought not to be a one-man show. It calls for constant and broad consultations among the players and the citizenry in general.

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