Enimil Ashon: Content classification on our TVs

Depending on whom or what you believe, the revelation below will, or may not, surprise you. More than a year after its establishment, workers of the National Film Authority still borrow to eat. No salary.

So where do they get stuff to mount all the razzle-dazzle events, such as the launch of the Presidential Pitch at Movenpick Ambassador and the first Stakeholder Engagement at the Accra Mall, what with all the mouth-watering take-aways et al? Trust that slender lady called Yaa Asantewaa to move! And she has Providence to thank for getting her a Minister in Ibrahim Awal who doesn’t know the definition of impossible and go-getter public servants as sympathetic as Akwasi Agyemang and Yoofi Grant.

Is this the same NFA at whose Presidential Pitch launch Akufo Addo pledged millions of euros to film, generally, and to NAFTI? You will ask these same questions if you saw NFA staff at work – almost like working for their children’s survival, in the manner the Americans will describe as “working their ...up”.

More anon

For Ghanaians who care about the influence of porn, violence and incendiary language on children and youth, I am horrified that one year after the inauguration of the Classification Committee, and a sensitization roadshow that has taken the committee to round-tables with managements of TV houses, not one film has been classified. Because of resistance.

The contention of some TV stations, especially the private ones, (and especially the table-top TV stations belonging to preachers and politicians) has been that the very intent to classify films is illegal under the 1992 Constitution since it is an attempt at censorship or control of the content.

A report read by Socrate Safo, chair of the Classification Committee, at the Stakeholder Engagement was stomach-churning. There is resistance, especially by TV stations that live on nothing else than Mexican soaps.

I saw one or two members of the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association (GIBA) at the Stakeholder Engagement and I hope they heard the wisdom from the pleas of film grandpapa, Kwaw Ansah. “Why must it always be money-money,” he wondered, leaving it to their conscience to remember the harm, sometimes irreparable, which eroticism, violence and exposure to inimical foreign cultures have wreaked on the minds and behaviour of children and youth.

Someone, please, lend me your dictionary. Read me three definitions of democracy. America is democratic, right? France is the cradle of democracy?

Read this. In France, ‘Statues Also Die’ was banned immediately after release because “it suggested that Western civilization is responsible for the decline of African art”. That same western democratic country banned Senegalese Ousmane Sembène’s historic epic, ‘Camp de Thiaroye’, in 1977. Guess what, it was the first African film produced without European technical assistance or co-financing from France. It was banned for criticizing the colonial system.

Come to almighty America. From 1933–1937, ‘Ecstasy’ was banned due to its erotic content. As recently as 1972 (up through 1997) the film, ‘Pink Flamingos’, was banned for 25 years because of explicit sexual content.

The most banned film of all time, in my opinion, is the book and later film, ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ released in 1928. Governments around the world immediately banned the novel. In the U.S, Senators declared that ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ was “written by a man with a diseased mind and a soul so black that he would even obscure the darkness of hell.”

I am not pro-censorship, but I know that a bit of a closer look at what we put out for viewing often helps with public morality and public good.

Why has the classification battle taken so long? Socrate is not surprised. “How do you classify a film when the content is pirated?” Got the picture? He revealed that 99% of imported films screened on Ghanaian TV stations are pirated. In our laws, he reasons, “before classifying, you have to prove ownership.”

Well, having said all of the above, I am happy to reveal that at long last, nearly a year after it started work, after one year of back and forth, the battle is over and the Classification Committee is getting cooperation from the recalcitrant TV stations.

But there are film experts like George Bosompim with a genuine problem. It has to do with how audiovisual owners in Bolgatanga, Wa and Half Assini get their material to the committee which sits only in Accra in the absence of a film freeway, the technology as used in the Oscars to receive films to the Academy.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.