Last week, Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said in Parliament that “all production of films and recording regardless of whether from media agencies or individual media outlets” must apply for licences before filming. Licences will cost RM50,000 (US$11,763).
Abdullah said that under the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS) Act, film producers are required to inform the board via existing channels seven days prior to the filming date. The original statement had implicated social media users in this new regulation, but the government walked back on it a day later.
Adbullah added that “no person shall participate in any production activities, distribute and exhibit films or any combination the activities specified in Section 21(1) unless a licence is issued authorising him to do so".
One of FINAS’ primary functions under the Act includes the development of the film industry, and the regulation and control of the production, distribution and exhibition of films in Malaysia and to issue licences for such purposes, but until now, news media and creative industries including marketing and advertising weren’t implicated under those rules.
It’s not a coincidence that these new regulations come just weeks after Al Jazeera released a documentary about the mistreatment of migrant workers in Malaysia. The video—which went viral—was criticised by the government and subsequently brought up the discussion of licensing in newsrooms. Al Jazeera has defended its stance.
When approached by PRWeek Asia, three big agencies declined to comment on the government’s new video regulations and its impact on marketing and advertising because "directives weren’t yet clear" for the industry.
Choulyin Tan, brand director at Kuala Lumpur-based Go Communications, told PRWeek Asia that there should be a clear definition as to what constitutes a professional or amateur video production.
“What should the parameters be when it comes to considering who needs the license? For those affected, it will be a heavy blow in an already difficult climate for most until SOPs are properly instituted,” she said.
“Content creators have always been a very creative and dynamic lot. Close one door, and they will surely find another opening to push their content through. While this may be met with some resistance, if it becomes evident that this announcement is here to stay (in any shape of form), creators will explore other mediums to share their content. This will require some pivoting and some may have to start from ground zero, but I believe that their resilience will pull them through.”
Tan isn’t worried about how this might affect creativity in the long-term. “If this announcement comes into full effect, I don’t believe creativity will be negatively affected. It will prompt content creators to push the envelope and explore different avenues to share their content with their audiences. Our local content creators are resilient, they warrant a way to connect with people under a fair and measured process,” she said.
Influencer and model Nalisa Alia Amin told PRWeek Asia that a majority of content creators in Malaysia work independently as freelancers.
“Who has RM50k to spare for a license for every video content they post? It’s already bad enough that the creative scene isn’t [hugely] celebrated here, so enforcing this outdated act will discourage creatives to have the freedom to showcase their work,” she said.
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