KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — Any entity intending to produce films – from mainstream media to individuals on social media – must apply for a licence from the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS), said Multimedia and Communications Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.
Responding to a question from Kluang Member of Parliament (MP) Wong Shu Qi in Parliament on Thursday (23 July), Saifuddin highlighted that the application should be made up to seven days before filming commences.
Citing Section 22(1) of the FINAS Act, Saifuddin said that “no one can participate in any film production, distribution or broadcast activities or any combination of these activities unless a licence is issued authorising the person to do so”.
“Film producers are required to apply for a Film Production Licence and a Film Shooting Certificate, whether they are mainstream media agencies or personal media showing the film on social media platform or traditional channels,” he added.
When asked by Wong on what constitutes “film” and if individuals posting video content on social media platforms such as Instagram or TikTok will be affected by the requirement, Saifuddin said that “film” covers “recordings on any material, including features and short films, short subject films, documentaries, trailers, and short films for advertisement, for viewing by members of the public”.
Wong’s question followed Saifuddin’s statement that his ministry will look into whether Qatari-based leading news channel Al Jazeera had obtained a licence from Finas for the Locked Up in Malaysia’s Lockdown – a documentary focusing on the alleged mistreatment of migrant workers in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic – prior to producing it.
Al Jazeera English managing director Giles Trendle, however, said yesterday that in line with Finas’ definition, its “101 East” weekly current affairs show does not fall into the category of film requiring a licence.
Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil told reporters outside Parliament today that Saifuddin should “be more careful with his remarks”, as “the effects of his interpretation may mean that all social media users are now required to acquire a Finas licence”.
“Many will ask whether they will be compelled by the minister’s interpretation of the law whenever they post videos on social media… For MPs who always do Facebook Live, are we now compelled to have a Finas licence?” He questioned.
“The definition of the Act has elements of selective prosecution, where certain parties are affected while others are not,” Fahmi added.
MPs express reservations regarding proposed Finas licensing requirement
In the evening session in the Dewan Rakyat today, Muar MP Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman said in response to Saifuddin’s speech that such a move will “kill” the livelihood of “content creators” in Malaysia.
The former Minister of Youth and Sports highlighted that such content creators comprise predominantly of young people.
“Just look at how Neelofa [actress and entrepreneur], Mat Luthfi, JinnyboyTV grew in Malaysia… It is because of the freedom to produce content without the limitations posed by exorbitant licencing fees,” Syed Saddiq told the House.
“We’ve seen Mr Sofian, who is known as “the Zach King of Malaysia”, with his excellent animation videos and creative content that earned international recognition. How can Mr Sofian remain influential if, with the new pre-requisite, he has to pay capital of RM50,000 for a licence from Finas?”
“This is unfair. It will thwart [the efforts of] creative content developers in Malaysia, the majority of whom are young people,” he stressed.
Approximately 50,000 youths in Malaysia will be affected by the Finas licensing requirement and see a drop in earnings or may even lose their jobs, warned Syed Saddiq.
He urged the Minister to withdraw his statement regarding the requirement and to offer consistency and clarity in relation to the matter.
Simpang Renggam MP Maszlee Malik highlighted the anxieties of educators who have been greatly reliant on online means to conduct their lessons throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as schools were closed during the multiple phases of the Movement Control Order.
“They have had to produce a variety of content and to share such content across public platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. So when the question of the Finas licence arose, they said that this is an impossible and burdensome feat,” the former Education Minister told the House.
“They have to deliver, they have to teach. And if they have to apply for the licence, when will it be approved?” Maszlee questioned, adding: “They are worried that if what the Minister said materialises, difficulties in the learning process will be heightened post-COVID-19.”
Syed Saddiq and Maszlee held their respective portfolios during the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration’s rule after the Mahathir Mohamad-led coalition wrested power from Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional (BN) alliance in 2018.
BN governed Malaysia for 61 years since the nation’s independence prior to the 2018 general election.
Events following the “Sheraton Move” earlier this year saw Dr Mahathir’s then-right-hand man Muhyiddin Yassin taking the mantle of Prime Minister, following a power vacuum left by the former’s resignation from the post.
The political crisis saw certain factions in the Malay-centric Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) parties purportedly attempting to form an alliance with Umno and other parties in a bid to establish a new government.
PKR cadres Azmin Ali and Zuraida Kamaruddin were sacked from the party for “betraying” the party, Malay Mail reported in February.
More recently, The Straits Times today (23 July) reported sources as saying that at least 14 assemblymen have agreed to desert Shafie Apdal — one of Dr Mahathir’s staunchest political allies — in favour of his “predecessor and rival” Musa Aman.
This may result in PH losing Sabah to the new ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition, among other states such as Johor, Melaka, Kedah, and Perak.
PN currently holds 9 out of Malaysia’s 13 state governments.