Con-flix of interest?

By Xavier Kong

THERE’S currently this whole argument going around local social media channels about a particular statement made by the chief executive officer of the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS), Ahmad Idham Ahmad Nadzri. Concerns were raised about the uncensored scenes in shows available on global streaming service Netflix, with the FINAS CEO saying the “uncensored contents are risky to child development”.

“The development of our children’s minds is still at risk if we only control the contents of local media platforms while the online contents of international programmes are accessible to all. This contradicts FINAS’ direction in producing content laden with good values,” says Ahmad Idham, who is a former actor and producer himself.

This seems to be a reiteration of statements made by Kuala Kangsar MP Mastura Mohd Yazid and Bachok MP Nik Muhammad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz, who have both made similar statements about sex scenes and LGBT representation on Netflix earlier this year, and how “Malaysians were concerned” about this.

However, there appears to be a con-flix, pardon the pun, of interest for the FINAS CEO, as pictures have surfaced under the heading of a local content provider named Aflix.tv, which thanked FINAS and the CEO in particular, for their endorsement and support.

A quick visit to Aflix.tv’s site prompted warnings from the browser (thank goodness for security measures) that stated the site was not secure, and that data may not be safe. After immediately getting out of there, the next question that came to mind was “what site doesn’t have TLS in 2019?”

A visit to social media turned out to be more productive (and isn’t that strange?) with a Facebook post on Sept 30 featuring pictures of the FINAS CEO with the Aflix.tv team. It should be noted that Aflix.tv, a homegrown service, is positioning itself as the world’s first ethical streaming service.

“Aflix’s mission is to provide an ethical entertainment platform that is suitable for the whole family. And when a government agency such as FINAS Malaysia is willing to endorse our cause, it is an honour. With FINAS onboard, we believe this collaboration will help promote local content to the world,” said Aflix.tv on the post dated Sept 30.

For such an ethical platform, it feels a bit much to have your endorser go public and call for the limiting of a major competitor. Really, is this why there was a call to censor Netflix from Ahmad Idham out of nowhere? Malaysian netizens are not blind and easily called this out on various social media platforms.

Coming out with a clarification

Of course, less than 24 hours after the debacle, a statement was issued clarifying the matter, saying that what he proposed was for “some form of collaboration between FINAS and the National Council of Women’s Organisations to hold a forum or seminar to debate this issue in the context of strengthening digital content in the future.”

He also clarifies that FINAS does not have the authority to censor digital content.

Well then, social media has a way of educating in a visual and amusing way. A hand-drawn step-by-step list of instructions for applying content filters to Netflix has been making the rounds with FINAS tagged, which is about as clear a sign of opposition from Netflix users as there can be.

Even industry players are calling this out, with Datuk Norman Abdul Halim, president and CEO of the KRU Group of Companies stating that “in the era of global distribution of content, any form of censorship is no longer relevant”.

He further suggested changing censorship to a rating system, so that media consumers will be able to make informed choices about what they are about to watch. Thank you, Datuk Norman, for understanding that most of us are adults with a right to choose the media we consume.

What’s the intention?

To Ahmad Idham, please note that there is a difference between the governance of a sector to ensure fair competition, and governing a sector to kill competition. Maybe a clear statement is necessary, that you propose a seminar or forum to discuss the issue of child development from digital content, rather than say things that can be construed as calling for media censorship, especially when you are a representative of a government agency. Come on, are we in China?

The statement that “FINAS will always find ways to strengthen local content so as to create a positive impact on society and the country” really reads like you are admitting to the deed, though. Why not allow competition as a means of producing better local content?

Again, the rakyat have a right to choose the media they wish to consume. Trying to restrict free choice, just to serve the interests of you or yours, is a big no-no, especially in this time of globalisation and access.

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