Press Council, FPB lock down content regulation deal

Cape Town - The Film and Publications Board (FPB) has agreed in principle to defer the regulation of online press content to the Press Council of South Africa.

In a joint statement from the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau of South Africa), Sanef (South African National Editors' Forum) and Press Council, the organisations say that the FPB endorsed the revised Press Code which would regulate online press content in SA.

While the FPB will continue to hear proposals regarding online content as it develops policy, the agreement between the organisations will cover the publication of content produced by media members of the Press Council.

"The exemption granted to the Press Council in respect of self-regulation is explicitly recognised in the Films and Publications Act and the FPB remains the entity which has the ultimate authority to regulate content as set out in the act," Dominic Cull, Ispa regulatory adviser told Fin24 about the agreement.

The exemption of online content granted to the Press Council mirrors that enjoyed by traditional print publication regulation in SA.

Content regulation

"Section 16 of the Films and Publications Act (FPA) currently exempts publishers of newspapers and magazines recognised by the Press Ombudsman (and which subscribe to the Press Code) from the FPB classification requirements that apply generally to all other forms of publication," said the statement.

However, the agreement presents a definitive move forward for online media publication in SA.

"The next step is to finalise the code in the constitution and reconstitute the Press Council," Andrew Allison, head of the Regulatory Affairs for the IAB told Fin24.

The FPB had been under pressure following the publication of its draft proposals that sought to regulate all online content in SA, including any "film, game or certain publication" that would include classification of material on international platforms such as Facebook and Google.

However, the agreement does not cover non press content and the FPB will continue to hear submissions regarding its draft regulations.

Despite that, it is unlikely that non press content will see significantly different standards in terms of how the material is regulated.

"I don't think there'll be different tiers. We've had positive confirmation from the Film and Publications Board CEO that the current exemption that applies to the press will be extended to general press content irrespective of the medium in which it is published," Allison said.

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