The purpose of the meeting was to examine the Film and Publication Board’s attempts to curb child pornography in South Africa. All films and publication released in South Africa had to get a rating from the Film and Publication Board (FPB). One of the major concerns for the FPB was to curb the distribution of child pornography in South Africa. While the FPB was able to monitor the distribution of the films and publications, its main challenge was its inability to control the distribution of harmful information over the internet.
The youth were able to access most of their information through the use smart phones. Moreover, many parents were not technology savvy and did not know how to operate these phones which allowed young people to access any information without the fear of being caught or being monitored. As such, more was needed from the FPB to inform parents on how to track their child’s cell phone and internet usage. However, it was the responsibility of parents to educate themselves about internet and communicate safe surfing techniques for their children.
The FPB was working on implementing a national strategy on internet safety, including an internet safety module in the school curriculum, an information hub on internet safety, a country wide awareness campaign for teachers, learners and parents, filtering tools (cell phones and computers), increased cooperation with global networks and adoption of the guidelines on the management of child pornographic images to curb the distribution and production of child pornography in South Africa.
During the discussion Members were concerned about some of the classifications that were given to films. The members were also concerned about television channels showing adult rated content in the afternoon when the children were home alone without adult supervision. Some Members noted violence in cartoons and video games and encouraged the FPB to work closely with other government departments on improving the classification system and ensuring that harmful material was kept out of the reach of children.
The FPB was working closely with civil society and other organizations on raising awareness, however since FPB was only a classification board, they did not have any powers to regulate the sale of explicit content. The FPB was working closely with government departments so that harmful material on television and the internet could be banned in South Africa.
The Committee did not adopt its Quarterly Performance Assessment Report and decided to meet again for further deliberations on the Report.
The Chairperson welcomed the Film and Publication Board (FPB) and requested that the Board submit their presentation at least seven days before the meeting. The Committee needed time to look over the presentation and prepare question. In the future, if the presentation was not received in time, FPB would not be allowed to deliver their presentation.
Film and Publication Board presentation
Ms Yoliswa Makhasi (Chief Exexutive Officer: Film and Publication Board) stated that all films and publication released in South Africa had to get a rating from the Film and Publication Board (FPB). One of the major concerns for the FPB was to curb the distribution of child pornography in South Africa. While the FPB was able to monitor the distribution of films and publications, its main challenge was its inability to control the distribution of harmful information over the internet. Social Networking sites were numerous and their domains were located in other countries. As such the FPB was finding it difficult to curb child pornography over the South African cyber network. The FPB worked closely with law enforcement agencies to assist them with information about the potential offenders, curb the distribution of such harmful content as well as implement strong punishment for those involved in distributing and producing child pornography. FPB’s mission was also to protect children from exposure to harmful and inappropriate content.
The FPB currently worked with a budget of R64 million and reported to the Department of Home Affairs. The reason that FPB reported to the Department of Home Affairs was due to historical reasons. In the past the FPB was a censorship board that then changed to a classification board.
As a classification board, the FPB did not interfere with the content of the publication. The FPB classified the content, and decided for whom the content was appropriate. The FPB used language, violence, prejudice, nudity and sex in determining the classification of the media content. These classifications were important to inform parents about the content of a film or any other publication so that the parents could make informed decisions on whether the film was appropriate for children.
She emphasised that it was important to manage and control the newer forms of media than the traditional ones. She argued that cell phones and the internet had effectively changed the way media was viewed and shared.
Another form of media that was beyond the control FPB was pirated materials sold by hawkers on the streets. These materials were not rated by the FPB and it was the responsibility of the law enforcement agencies to ensure that such material was not being sold. She claimed that despite numerous efforts by the government, the hawkers were still able to sell their products with relative ease. Moreover, the FPB would not be able to classify the materials sold on the streets even if it wanted to because that would justify the sale of pirated materials.
She said that the youth were able to access most of their information through the use of smart phones. Moreover, many parents were not technology savvy and did not know how to operate smart phones which allowed young people to access any information without the fear of being caught or being monitored. As such, more was need from the FPB to educate parents on the how to track their child’s cell phone and internet usage.
Ms Mmapula Makola (Chief Operating Officer; FPB) showed a short film that outlined the mandate of the FPB. The film showed the importance of communicating with children on their use of technology, whilst FPB promoted a strong partnership with law enforcement agencies to catch criminals engaged in producing/distributing child pornography.
She argued that in many cases children, through the use of cell phones and other media devices were capturing illicit images of each other or themselves and publishing it online without the knowledge of their parents. In this case children themselves become producers of child pornography.
As such, she emphasised that the parents were the most important catalyst in ensuring that child pornography could be eliminated. It was the responsibility of the parents to educate themselves about the internet and communicate safe surfing techniques with their children. However, Ms Makola acknowledged that such a task was difficult to implement because there were many families with single parents who had extremely busy professional lives.
She stated that according to FPB research, most children who access internet with their cell phones post information about themselves on social networking sites and download information about others. Children were able to access this information both at home and school.
However, the FPB was not concerned with monitoring internet use in schools because they believed that most schools had strong security in place preventing children from freely accessing internet at school. Moreover, there were teacher always present and vigilant who could prevent the child from using the internet while in the classroom. The problem lay at home, where there was little parental supervision and children were free to use the internet without any supervision. As such, the FPB was mainly concerned with targeting the home for their information campaigns.
She emphasised that while technology was important in the mental development of children, there were many dangers that needed to be avoided. Sex and cyber-bullying were two of the most prevalent dangers that the children were being exposed to over the internet.
She then illustrated the example of websites such as “u toilet” that were responsible for distribution of explicit content of young children and cyber bullying. The FPB had worked closely with cell phone companies and convinced them to ban the website on its phones. This example illustrated the role FPB could play in ensuring harmful material was blocked for all young children under the age of 18.
The FPB also engaged in key international partnership agreements with international organisations and government where information was shared with other governments to catch criminals responsible for child pornography. In South Africa, if a child pornography case was reported to the police and it was discovered that the perpetrators were in another country, the FPB would then contact the police department of that country and ensure those perpetrators were brought to justice.
FPB also had awareness programmes for both parents and teachers. However due to limited funding, the FPB was unable to fully actualise the potential of the awareness programmes.
The FPB urged the Internet Service Providers to do whatever they could to ensure that illicit sites containing illegal content were removed or blocked [see document attached].
She noted the FPB was working on implementing a national strategy on internet safety, including an internet safety module in the school curriculum, an information hub on internet safety, a country wide awareness campaign for teachers, learners and parents, filtering tools (cell phones and computers), increased cooperation with global networks and adoption of the guidelines on the management of child pornographic images to curb the distribution and production of child pornography in South Africa.
Finally, Ms Makola requested input from the Committee and stated that the FPB was always looking to engage in dialogue with the Committee on how to improve its services. Therefore, the FPB would look forward to hosting a workshop with the Committee on enhancing the FPB and its services.
Mr S Plaatjie (COPE; North-West) acknowledged the challenges faced by the FPB and the detrimental impact some social networking sites had on people of all ages. He asked if FPB was working alone on the advocacy campaigns or with other organisations. If FPB was working with other organisation, he asked if the Committee could be provided with a list of the organisations. Secondly, was FPB working in rural communities as well? Could FPB identify specific provinces where the problem of illegal content was worse than others?
Ms B Mncube (ANC; Gauteng) wanted more information about the classification of content on Soweto TV. The content on Soweto TV was inappropriate and asked what the FPB was doing to curb the amount of violence and sex depicted on that particular TV station.
Mr D Faber (DA; Northern Cape) asked why South Africa did not have a Cyber Security Network in place. He commented that there was a lot of violence depicted in children’s cartoons.
The Chairperson was concerned about TV channels showing adult content in the afternoon when children returned from school and the parents were still at work.
Ms Makhasi responded that often local organisations contacted the FPB about creating collaborative projects pertaining to media and access to information. Simultaneously the FPB was looking at developing partnerships with various organisations / government department and local communities. Once FPB had identified an organisation it wanted to work with, FPB officers would contact the organisation and open a dialogue about how they could help each other. HER WORDS???
In terms of rural outreach, FPB had visited eight provinces within which they had visited 36 schools to raise awareness about cyber safety. She emphasised that children in rural areas had similar access to technology as their urban counterparts. As such, FPB acknowledged the importance of working with communities and parents in rural areas and educating them about internet usage and cyber crime.
She stated that FPB was not classifying the content of Soweto TV. FPB was also concerned about the content shown on that particular network. They had contacted the Press Ombudsman and complained about the content shown on Soweto TV and wanted the government to take action and block the network.
FPB had a Facebook page but the organisation was finding it difficult to attract visitors to the page. Ms Makhasi stated that they would look into more ways of reaching out to the community through social media and the use of the internet for their information awareness campaign.
She added that FPB was looking into violence in cartoons and video games and would work closely with manufacturers and production houses on ensuring that content produced for children was safe and violence-free. However, she acknowledged that the FPB lacked the capacity to classify all video games sold in South Africa. As a result the FPB was relying on notes submitted by the game developers to classify the games.
Ms Makhasi stated that 80% of FPB’s funding came from the Department of Home Affairs. For 2011 the budget was R65 million. FPB also recorded an unqualified report for a second year in a row. She added that 30% of the budget went to employee costs and the rest was used for running its programmes and for capital expenses. The FPB would send an annual report at a later date to the Committee.
She noted that currently they were working with eTV to stop them from showing explicit content. However, since FPB was only a classification organisation they could not control the actual content of the programmes.
Ms Makola responded that the FPB was looking into legislative gaps that exist and working on ways to fill those gaps so that the FPB could perform its task to its best ability.
She explained that the FPB hired people from several professional backgrounds, such as lawyers, teachers and psychologists, to work as classifiers. FPB had laid out a specific framework that all classifiers had to abide by when classifying the content waiting to be published.
Mr Clive Borman, FPB Compliance Officer, stated that FPB was working on developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with several organisations especially in the Western Cape. FPB was also working with schools on banning the use of cell phones in schools.
Ms Mncube expressed concern about young people producing sex videos and publishing them online. She wanted the FPB to work closely with the Department of Basic Education to develop strategies so that young children were not victimised by the release of such sex tapes. She also wanted the FPB to work with local churches on raising awareness.
Ms Plaatjie asked where the FPB got its mandate and whether they could ask about an additional mandate, with additional funding, so other related matters discussed in the meeting could be addressed.
Ms Makola replied that FPB was facing several road blocks because they did not have enough jurisdiction. For example, the FPB was not able to dictate and classify newspaper and magazine material. She believed that many fashion magazines contained explicit information that was harmful to children and should not be allowed to be sold on newsstands.
Finally she stated that FPB was in the process of developing a workshop on content management and cyber security and requested the presence of the Committee Members.
The Chairperson welcomed the invitation.
Select Committee on Social Services- Adoption Quarterly Performance Assessment Report
Dr Thulisile Ganyaza-Twalo (Committee Content Advisor) presented to the Committee on its request the Quarterly Performance Assessment Report.
The objective of the report was to reflect on the performance of the Committee in the first quarter of the 2011/12 financial year; and highlight risk factors in achieving the annual objectives of the Committee. The report also contained information about the Committee’s oversight visits and Budget Review.
The Members along with the Chairperson stated that the report should have been created earlier in the year. Also Members were concerned about the lack of a cohesive working relationship between researchers for the NCOP and National Assembly.
The report was not adopted and the Committee decided to meet again for further deliberation on the Report.
Adoption of Minutes
The minutes of 2 and 30 August 2011 were adopted.
The Chairperson and the members expressed concern that the researcher/ secretary for the Committee were not following up with the Departments after the meetings. If the Department had promised to submit a report or answer questions in writing, the researchers of the committee were responsible for following up and ensuring the information was received.
The meeting was adjourned.
- SC Socials: Committee Content Advisor on performance of Committee; Briefing by FPB on Child Pornography Part 2
- SC Socials: Committee Content Advisor on performance of Committee; Briefing by FPB on Child Pornography Part 3
- SC Socials: Committee Content Advisor on performance of Committee; Briefing by FPB on Child Pornography Part 1
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