The MacG Dilemma
// YouTube Creative Freedom vs Censorship //
Wats good AfroFuturists, live from the Mothership, this is Bataung aka Cyber Sonic, your cyber & technology writer. I'll be dishing out all tech news from around the universe. SPACE IS THE PLACE !
YouTube, the “Godfather” of all video sharing platforms, has become an essential player within the creative economy. Providing a virtual avenue for creative expression, millions of artists, entertainers, bloggers and content creators have found a safe haven in YouTube. An unfiltered creative haven, one the biggest attractions to YouTube real estate, is its minimalistic red tape and regulation over user-generated content. Unlike content broadcasted on traditional media, on YouTube ‘YOU SAY WHAT YOU LIKE’ with full creative freedom.
This relationship between creative freedom and censorship, has recently been brought to an ultimate collision through YouTube podcast vehicle, Podcast & Chill with Mac G. Around January, hosts MacGyver ‘Mac G’ Mukwevho & Sol Phenduka came under heavy fire after comments made on an episode around transgender & LGBTQI+ community. Of recent, backlash momentum on Black Twitter reached ‘Tesla stock market’ levels, with celebrities and gender activists calling for Mac G’s head. Corporate sponsors Old Mutual & SupaBets have distanced themselves from their association with the podcast, pulling away resources. In a recent follow up podcast episode on the matter, Mac G revealed that the podcast took a significant financial loss stemming from this matter, which potentially might affect their financial obligation towards 30 staff employees.
Now, the intent of this piece, it NOT to pass verdict on Mac G and his comments. Rather, this case highlights an interesting dilemma which must be explored. With no current legislative jurisdiction over YouTube content, to what extend do these events impact creative freedom? Does a de facto Black Twitter court, not infringe on artistic/creative freedoms? This regulatory vacuum creates a sticky situation, but its consequences are very REAL (case in point, podcast financial loss).
October 9th last year, Ministry of Communications & Digital Technologies, published a white paper on Audio & Audiovisual Content Services. This draft paper aims to establish a policy framework that will play catch-up on regulation vacuums brought about by new content services platforms and their technologies. Under current laws, Electronic Communications Act and Broadcasting Act, regulations only apply to linear broadcasting channels (traditional & online linear streaming channels) e.g SABC channels & DSTV. As a result, this narrows the current statutory definition of broadcasting services and adopts a platform specific approach to regulation. Under the new proposed Audio & Audiovisual Content Services Framework, non-linear broadcasting-like content ‘on demand video & video sharing’ will be covered under a broader statutory definition. This shift in the game, will give more regulatory power to agencies like ICASA, BCCSA & SARS.
Yes, this development in trying to organize creative industries more efficiently, to have more objective procedural dispute resolution mechanisms, in the event of another ‘Mac G dilemma’ is a potential solution. But then does the burden of increased regulation, not mean we exchange our creative freedom in the process? The dichotomy of regulation is increased censorship!
Human expression is founded on creative freedom. We already have ‘The Man’ tapping into our phones, listening to our conversations, filtering content on television and newspapers. For creatives, the internet is the last frontier. Do we really want to give that up? Can our creative sovereignty survive the censorship of YouTube? To what limits will this censorship extend? Today they censor YouTube, tomorrow they find ways to censor the internet in its entirety!
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