The Kenya Film Classification Board’s (KFCB) has registered a major victory against the advertising and alcohol industry after the court barred advertisements targeted at adults only during family time.
The Constitutional Court this week ruled that beer, betting and gambling, condoms or any other adverts containing scenes, images or language intended for adults will not be aired during the watershed period between 5am and 10pm.
The Alcoholic Beverages Association of Kenya (ABAK) had moved to the Constitutional Court to challenge the Kenya Film Classification Board’s (KFCB) mandate to regulate audio-visual commercials aired on television.
“The Kenya Information and Communication Act of 2013 (KICA)gives KFCB the mandate to monitor Television stations in order to ensure that content meant for adult audiences is not aired during the watershed period,” Justice John Mativo ruled on 12th May, 2017.
In January, beer manufacturers, betting companies and other advertising companies defied a KFCB directive to stop advertising alcoholic products and betting programmes during the watershed period, forcing the film’s regulator to seek a court order.
This is a big win for KFCB Chief Executive Ezekiel Mutua, who has been at the forefront of policing media companies and advertisers to block content considered unsuitable for children under the age of 18. The watershed period covers the early morning and evening sessions of the day when it is believed children are active and could be listening to radio or watching TV.
Aggrieved media houses have given Mr Mutua a blackout since he started agitating against inappropriate content on TV and radio.
In the ruling, Justice Mativo stated that alcohol advertisements on television as well as other audio-visual advertisements fall within the definition and meaning of “film” and “making film” under section two of the Film and Stage Plays Act Cap222.
“The board had not taken any administrative action to be complained of,” he said, “and the warnings and demand to advertisers to submit audio visual content for rating and classification was within the board’s mandate.”
“Transmission of audio visual advertisements must ensure respect for cultural, age difference, linguistic diversity, moral values and religious convictions,” ruled the court.
Mr Mutua said the ruling would take effect immediately on all parties, including broadcasters and advertising agencies.
“We expect no beer advert to be on our screens by the end of the week,” he said immediately after the ruling. “All advertisements on free to air television stations and other public audio-visual displays that were produced without obtaining a filming licence from KFCB as required under Section 2 of Cap222 must stop airing immediately and should be submitted for approval by the board in line with the law.”
He also warned transport operators and entertainment joints that are violating the law. “We will also move to rein in on the transport sector as well as entertainment joints in the country that have been breaching the law by playing lewd and profane content,” he said.
According to Film and Stage Plays Act and the Programming Code for free to air radio and television services in Kenya, no film or class film, including adverts, should be created, distributed, broadcasted or exhibited without obtaining a filming licence and classification by the Board (KFCB).
The restriction is expected to hurt media houses which are likely to lose most of the outlawed adverts to alternative advertising channels like digital and outdoor.