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A Look at Recent Regulatory Shifts Across African Film Industries: Kenya

In this series, we’ll highlight recently announced industry-related regulatory reforms and other noteworthy film industry developments in key African regions.

Why? They’re essential for creating a conducive environment for growth and innovation. Additionally, effective regulations can address issues like piracy, quality, and cultural representation, and indirectly influence extremely important challenges including funding, infrastructure, and market access.

On this front, Kenya’s roar was the loudest and most transparent this year, so we’ll start there. Much of the major action came from the Film Classification Board (KFCB):

1. Nationwide Crackdown on Unlicensed Filmmakers

The KFCB launched a nationwide crackdown on filmmakers operating without a valid license. This initiative is part of efforts to control the distribution of unrated films and to ensure filmmakers comply with the law. The focus is particularly on the illegal exhibition of films in public cinemas and on regular television channels.

[Context: In Kenya, filmmakers are required to obtain a filming license, mandatory for both local and foreign filmmakers. No film production is allowed without the license. The KFCB processes these permits which come with fees. For comparison, in the U.S., film permits are managed locally by city or county film offices, unlike Kenya’s national system, and are only required for shooting in public spaces or for large-scale productions.]

2. Revision of the Role of Film Agents

Related to the first item… the KFCB is in the process of redefining the role of film agents. This comes after recommendations from local producers to abolish the prerequisite to register as film agents or be facilitated by agents when obtaining licenses. The proposed changes aim to make it easier for local filmmakers to obtain licenses directly from KFCB without going through agents, reducing barriers that hinder growth.

3. Regulation of Broadcast and Streaming Services

The framework, which was billed as a co-regulation effort rather than unilateral action by the KFCB, will involve broadcasters and online streaming platforms in the examination and rating of their content. A goal is to keep up with changes in a rapidly evolving media landscape​.

4. Focus on Safeguarding “National Values and Norms”

Related to the third item… the KFCB continues to focus on what it deems efficient, effective, and professional film regulatory services when it comes to prevailing social mores. This includes evaluating and restricting “adult content” and enforcing programming codes for TV and radio services accessible without subscription or additional fees.

How might these updates influence Kenyan film and TV output in 2024? Will monitor as the year unfolds…

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