Kenya is apparently struggling with a different set of problems from other African countries on the introduction of streaming giant Netflix into the continent. Where major discussions on the subject have hinged around issues like; the network providers ability to keep up, appropriate placement of local content and competition for longstanding content providers like DSTV, Kenya’s censorship board, the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) has taken the discourse a couple of steps further.
At a press conference held in Nairobi, the KFCB called the streaming giant a threat to moral values and as unbelievable as this may sound, national security.
The board insists that Netflix; which was just introduced to the country a mere two weeks ago; is already contributing greatly to moral decline. The KFCB chairman Jackson Kosgei in a statement which was emailed to Quartz proclaims that Kenya cannot afford to be, as he puts it, “a passive recipient of foreign content that could corrupt the moral values of our children.” He therefore issues the boards threat to block Netflix for inappropriate content.
On the case of national security, they say, “In this era of global terrorism, including broadcasts over the internet by terrorist entities, vigilance is the price of safety and prevention,” continuing, “As Kenyans, we therefore need to ask all the right questions about the unregulated arrival and future of Netflix in the country. We need to ponder its implications in light of the ongoing war on terror by questioning the manner and nature of Netflix’s introduction of services in Kenya.”
Another Kenyan media regulator, Kenya Communications Authority, who had earlier on in the month clapped down on radio stations, banning them from broadcasting shows that mentioned sex during peak listening hours, surprisingly contradicted the KFCB. They explained that Netflix was an Internet content provider, the likes of YouTube or Facebook and not a traditional broadcaster and as such did not require any special license for broadcasting.
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A number of film loving citizens were unhappy about the talk, especially as Kenya’s own movie industry was not being helped to improve by these bodies and as such could not satisfy their movie watching appetites. Netflix’s spokesman Joris Evers, likewise defended the streaming giant’s position pointing out that there was an allowance for viewers to make informed viewing choices with the film synopses that are always clearly displayed as well as parental controls available for parents who wanted to restrict their children.
One thing is clear, with the way Netflix has managed to thrive in the midst of unstable internet and competitive content providers like DSTV that previously had us set in our ways, the only way to stop its spread in this continent without massive public backlash or continued illegal streaming is to bolster our own local content and beyond that provide better, cheaper content providers. Since that will probably happen anyway as a result of Netflix’s presence, why bother really?