Much ado about nothing

Written by on February 18, 2019

THE plot of Much Ado About Nothing is based upon deliberate deceptions, some malevolent and others benign.

In reading the press statements from the IBA it appears that it is amounts to nothing more than a classic example of a regulator exercising statutory powers for an ulterior purpose or motive, which conflicts with the principles of legality

As the Honourable Dora Silya mentioned in her press conference last week, there are many areas of regulation that require attention – most especially her reference to the internet. News, information and entertainment is no longer restricted to traditional broadcasters, the ability to transmit video content over the internet has opened up a plethora of new video content options and the Honourable Minister shows great insight and forward thinking in starting to address the challenges governments face in terms of applying regulation to the internet.

It is by no ways a simple business, neither should it to be taken lightly when considering the impact of harmful content in the form of hate speech, pornography and the issue of piracy which is so badly damaging Zambia’s fledgling creative industries. While the IBA has mistakenly obsessed over the debate on Zambian morality and culture led by incorrect and inaccurate social media reporting on the Lusaka Hustle show, they have failed to heed the Honourable Minister’s call to consider the broad range of highly unsavoury content on the Internet which is highly offensive and not aligned to Zambia’s Culture and Values.

Take the most recent case in the United Kingdom – on 20 January The Mail on Sunday, a newspaper in the UK ran an expose written by Abul Taher on the “Racists behind vile secretive neo-Nazi radio station….that we’re powerless to shut down”. The story demonstrates how the dangerous hate speech broadcast by Radio Aryan – a station run by extreme right-wing organisations which have been pushing out racist bile 24 hours a day for two years. Here is the shocker – the UK broadcasting regulator OFCOM is unable to silence them as the programmes are transmitted over the Internet and Mobile phone Apps which they have no power to police. These programmes and a library of other hate speech is available to anyone and everyone.

It demonstrates that if regulators continue to focus on regulating traditional media and not the massive amount of video content and audio content which is easily accessible on the Internet then regulation will become a fruitless exercise unable to fulfil the mandate they have been given.

With internet access, anyone – anywhere has the ability to upload and post content ranging from dead boring day to day lives to illegal and seriously harmful. If the state is ultimately responsible for setting standards in most information markets, recognising and addressing the social harms and benefits of certain content – why are they targeting traditional media over an event and content that did not even happen?

Propaganda, hate Speech, inappropriate videos targeting children, fraud, piracy and intellectual property infringement, child sexual imagery and many other forms of harmful material have to become a key focus for Zambia’s regulators – and it is not happening in traditional broadcasting of TV or Radio – it is happening online as the Minister says.

However, as we have argued the focus appears misaligned and it does appear that there is “Much ado about nothing” right now in terms of consumer protection.

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