Finas Licence Fiasco

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Confusion after Minister makes sweeping statement that all producers, must obtain a Film Production License and Film Shooting Certificate (SPP) from Finas before any filming.

An unsatisfactory parliamentary reply by Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah has raised questions over whether Malaysians are now required to apply for a National Film Development Corporation (Finas) licence for their social media posts if these involve videos.

Former communications and multimedia minister Gobind Singh Deo today said the Perikatan Nasional government’s “regressive stance” on film and social media could significantly curtail media freedom.

Bernama

“It is impractical to expect or require all social media users to comply with Section 21 and 22 (of the Finas Act 1981),” Gobind said.

“Even if those sections include social media, which is arguable, the minister need not take that position.

“He may have the power to exempt any persons or class of persons from the requirements of any of the provisions of the act,” he added.

Gobind said Saifuddin should refer to Section 34A of the Finas Act “carefully” for the provision, adding that he should be realistic and practical in keeping with new technology and the media landscape of today.

Former education minister Maszlee Malik called for clarification over the issue of whether all film producers need to get a licence from Finas prior to releasing their content.

Bernama

Maszlee said he had been approached by teachers and lecturers who were concerned with the production of video material as part of their educational material, a rising trend in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the government’s imposition of a movement control order (MCO) that started in March and has only recently been relaxed with classroom teaching resumed.

Yesterday, during Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat, Saifuddin made a sweeping statement that all producers, whether mainstream media or personal entities, must obtain a Film Production License and Film Shooting Certificate (SPP) from Finas before filming.

The minister said the Finas Act 1981 requires film producers to give it prior notice seven days before filming, adding that it also applied for content released on social media platforms.

Maszlee who is Simpang Renggam MP urged Saifuddin to clarify his statement and “be wary of blanket decisions like this”.

Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (IND-Muar) also raised concerns that the requirement would “kill” online content creators, many of whom were youths.

“I demand and urge the minister to retract his statement to ensure that there is consistency so that his explanation will not bind youths across Malaysia,” said Syed Saddiq who is the former youth and sports minister.

Kluang MP Wong Shu Qi said the Finas Act 1981 was outdated as it was enacted during years when filming activities were only confined to the film industry, news agencies and for commercial use.

“However, we are now in an era where everyone can film. Social media users with smartphones upload millions of videos to YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram everyday.

“Some are even earning money, making and sharing videos on social media platforms,” she said in a statement.

“By enforcing this law, the government is basically making video filming an illegal activity in Malaysia.

“Will the government take action against all TikTok users?

“Will the government request every Youtuber to apply for a licence? More importantly, will the government request Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob to apply for a licence before broadcasting live press conference videos?”

Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh tagged Saifuddin in a tweet asking if places of worship will need a Finas licence for online worship services.

“Don’t you know that the threat of Covid-19 has caused many places of worship to go online and have praise and worship services and sermons via videos?

“You expect places of worship to apply for (a) permit from Finas too?” she questioned.

Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil had also earlier pressed Saifuddin to explain if he meant all Malaysians were required to obtain a licence to produce any video content.

Fahmi said the minister’s remarks were worrying as they suggested that that any person producing video content, even for personal use on social media, was subject to the licensing requirement that also needed them to have companies with a paid up-up capital of RM50,000 each.

He pointed to a recent video published from content creator Dustin Pfundheller on his Facebook page title Other Side of the Truth on May 18 and asked the minister if this production was also licensed.

The video was shown on the state-owned Bernama TV.

“I asked earlier as a supplementary question, whether Dustin Pfundheller has a licence from Finas but it was not answered (by the minister).

“This is worrying as it would implicate all social media users who use platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, following the minister’s interpretation of the Finas Act,” Fahmi told reporters during a press conference at the Parliament media centre today.

“For MPs who always do Facebook Live, are we now compelled to have a Finas licence? Saifuddin has to be careful with his remarks.”

Fahmi also wants Saifuddin to resign over his handling of the Finas issue, as this is the third purported gaffe by the minister since his appointment in March.

“I think after three episodes of missteps since his appointment as minister — (1) the appointment of Mr Eric Paulsen to the Communications and Multimedia Consultative Council, which was withdrawn after it was disputed by various parties; (2) revocation of the 700MHz, 900MHz and 2600MHz spectrum allocations after it was disputed by various parties; and the latest (3) Finas licence issue today which is disputed by various parties — it is time for the minister of communications and multimedia to resign,” he said.