It’s been a few weeks since the issue of the Finas Act 1981 was brought up in parliament and also in the media. Now, it seems to have gone quiet and nobody is talking about it anymore. However, the Communication and Multimedia Ministry has announced that they will form a committee to look into the amendment of the act.
As a disclosure, after having the minister Saifuddin Abdullah, quoting my article from Malaysiakini where I criticised the act, I have been invited into the discussions. It’s still in early stages and I’m sure that when the time comes, the relevant people will come forth to announce the results of it all.
I believe that filmmaking and video making (interchangeable) have become a very integral part of communication in society today. Every single person I know uses video and film today. My parents take videos and send them to us in the family WhatsApp groups. My kids shoot videos of themselves and their friends. I record videos both for personal and professional work.
I would equate the importance of video and film now as equal to reading and writing. Everyone knows how to read and write, and it is an integral part of societal life. Well, video is exactly that now. If we talk about literacy, then it is the same when it comes to video literacy. It is important for everyone to have video literacy today.
And because of this, I find that the current Finas Act which categorises all forms of video and film production as having to be monitored and regulated by Finas (The National Film Development Board) very archaic. The act was enacted in 1981 and the evolution of videos and film has progressed tremendously since then. I mean, 40 years have passed.
I am of the opinion that we cannot and should not monitor and regulate video and film just like how we do not monitor and regulate writing and reading. There is no umbrella body that does this for writing because it is just impossible. There may be regulatory bodies that look at the different aspects or platforms for writing, but there is no Finas for writing.
For example, if you want to publish a book, there are the relevant bodies that you need to go through in order to get an ISBN number and all that. If you want to publish a news article or an opinion piece, then the newspaper or magazine would need to be registered under the Printing Press and Publication Acts (although this is a whole new can of worms).
But it is impossible to have a body that regulates writing as a whole because writing is used for many things. It makes no sense to regulate writing when it is used for emails between family, friends or colleagues. It makes no sense to regulate writing when it is used to fill in forms to apply for work or anything else.
There was a time when the Malaysian government suggested that they wanted to regulate bloggers online. That didn’t happen because it is impossible. Everyone has access to creating blogs and it is the democratisation of writing that has made it accessible. Regulating it just goes against everything that it stands for.
So that is how video and films like now. Everyone is using it in every aspect of life. Teachers use video to teach. Students use video to do academic work. Videos are used by family and friends to document life events just like how photographs are being used. In fact, there are now video CVs for people who are applying for jobs too.
So how then will you regulate video and film? I will even go as far as to suggest that maybe Finas is no longer relevant today. They cannot still harbour the vision of wanting to be the umbrella organisation to monitor and regulate all of video and film. If they want, they can take one aspect of video and film to focus on.
For example, if they want to look at the area of films as cinematic art, then they can be some sort of a Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka for films. But they cannot still try to remain as the end all and be all authority of video and film. It is time to open up film and video like how reading and writing is now open because the barriers of entry have been removed.
This same thing happened to writing and reading centuries ago too. In the 13th century, only the elite members of society were able to read and write because the barriers of entry were high. Education was only available to the rich and powerful. There was a printing press but again, only the rich and powerful had access to it.
But slowly, when it became more accessible, these same rich and elite wanted to protect their interests by opposing this accessibility. They tried to protest the opening up of literacy education because they wanted to keep that knowledge only to themselves. I guess when everyone else can read and write, they wouldn’t be so rich and powerful anymore.
Maybe that is also why so many old school production companies are so opposed to independent filmmakers, producers and YouTubers entering the market because their exclusivity is now slowly being taken away from them. The barriers of entry to video and filmmaking have been lowered and it is now more accessible to everyone.
Unfortunately for them, times are changing, and the only way is to change together with it. Resistance is futile as has been proven by history. Everyone can read and write today without having to register for a license or permit from the authorities. That is how video and filmmaking should be too.
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