Content Forum: Timely for a complete revamp of the content code

By Nurin Najmina Zaidi

GOMBAK, 21 November 2021: It is timely for Communications and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia (CMCF) to do a complete revamp of the content code to make sure that it continues to be relevant, progressive and hopefully future-proof, the Executive Director of the Content Forum, Mediha Mahmood told a town hall on Friday (19 November). 

She said CMCF has proposed changes to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content Code and the draft will be sent to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) on 10 December 2021.

“A lot of things have changed. So, we remove all the obsolete references and non-practical references and introduce new items that we feel require regulations,” she emphasised.

Mediha and her team have also engaged legal consultants from a legal firm to help them out with benchmarking, and to make sure that the best practices that they claim are actually the best practices around the world internationally. 

“We also want to make sure that we implement the content code that is adapted to the Malaysian environment, Malaysian jurisdiction as well as the legislation,” she added.

Introducing new definition

The proposal to change the content code was presented and discussed with the audience. A question was asked via the public consultation exercise regarding new definitions that should be introduced to adapt to the changes of the industry. 

Mediha explained that she needed to identify one particular definition that might be a point of contention by using the definition of the word ‘child’ as an example. A child was defined as a person who is below 18 years old.

“What the content forum members had decided was actually to be more aligned with what’s going on in Malaysia and that is to define a child as below the age of 13.”

She clarified that the reason for the proposal is because the Film Censorship Board of Malaysia (LPF) also has the film classification of the U, P13 and P18. She also said that the Malaysian school system has set that high schoolers are those who are above 13 years of age. 

Furthermore, the definition of children as those aged 12 and younger was supported as it was believed that those who are 13 years and above are capable of accessing content.

Guideline of content

Medina further said that any content that they review or measure needs to be seen in the context of Malaysia. And the focus area for the revamp has been identified. One of the contents is adult content.

She and the content forum members had proposed that the adult content on nudity shall be allowed depending on the degree of inherent artistic, realism, or fictional elements, educational merits, and presentation of the content, as long as it is not excessive or explicit in nature, but limited to its appropriateness in the context of the content.

They also proposed for violent content code where it introduces a form of violence that is relatively new, but it is also a point of concern. They also intend to address the violent abuse on the internet as well as gender-based violence on the content code.

Mediha highlighted content for a person with disability where content members added more empowerment for the person with a disability for access to content.

They also suggested in the content code to add two extra provisions. The first one is that the code subject should make reasonable accommodation to be delivered by content information that is intended for the general public. Secondly is that it is to be in an accessible format and technology that is appropriate for persons with disabilities.

Advertisement

Mediha said she had proposed that the advertisers should include anyone who utilises the network and digital media to display ads and marketing communication.

She further adde the clarification on the current content code is to make sure that as long as it features as an announcement or a promotion that is disseminated in exchange for payment it should comply with this code.

Moreover, the content forum members also proposed to allow only public service announcements (PSA) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns, by a licensed gambling of a betting company. This is to only allow messages containing specific information for the benefit of the communities or well wishes in relation to festivities and holiday.

Mediha also touched on advertisements that uses religion. 

“To preserve the sanctity and sensitivity of religion, to avoid creating confusion, the use of religion in any form of advertisement shall be prohibited,” she explained.

“Instead of having a new provision, this is intended to be catch-all and future-proof. The general rule is that a product that is legal should be allowed to advertise if it complies with the advertising set in the content code as well as existing law and regulations,” Mediha added.

Members of the content code also proposed to allow advertising of intoxicating liquor under strict restrictions. The reason for this proposal is to level the playing field with print and online advertisers.

“We enhance the scoping coverage for broadcasting to also include anything that is broadcast regardless of mode or technology. So, this is for future-proofing to address advancement in technology,” she explained.

Specific broadcasting

The proposal by Mediha was to introduce a new classification and that is to address content created and targeted for all the children or adolescents.

“And this classification is going to be used by subscription broadcasters because they have the most amount of content out there. It is supposed to be more beneficial if there are more classifications,” she highlighted.

She also emphasised on religious content by suggesting that all religious content on Islam shall be in consultation with the relevant religious authority or accredited scholars prior to transmission and for every other religion has to do the same with their own religious authority.

Specific online content

The only changes that they are making is to add things to cover future technology whether fixed or mobile. A category of online service providers was also added where it has been decided that code subject shall not include providers of over-the-top content services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime.

These will be excluded from the definition of online providers because they provide curated content directly to the consumer over the internet. 

In addition, a new responsibility for online content product providers was imposed where it should not be a response mechanism to prohibit material as they also need to have a pro-active mechanism for prohibited material.

Code administration

Since the number of people complaining about content had increased, what had been proposed is that there is a need for a revision to the turnaround time for the complaints bureau to address the complaint, Mehiha said.

But at the same time, balancing between the need for speed and the need to have an effective complaint handling process.

To do this, the content forum members propose to give a maximum of 14 working days but the requirement is to do it as soon as possible.

Mediha also suggested to have an alternative dispute resolution provision to provide for the appeal process. Not only that, but also to provide for the complaints bureau to have a form of appeal by way of arbitration reserving the right to impose an administrative fee. ***

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