The Film and Publication Board of South Africa (FPB) has told MyBroadband that it is not delaying the release of Google’s original content on YouTube Premium in South Africa.
YouTube Premium launched in South Africa on 12 March and although its other features were functional, Google only enabled a small fraction of its catalogue of original content in South Africa.
The service is priced at R71.99 per month for individual subscribers and R109.99 per month for a family plan.
Examples of YouTube Premium shows and movies that are blocked or partially blocked in South Africa include Cobra Kai, Impulse, Origin, and Bodied.
For shows like Cobra Kai and Origin, YouTube makes the first two episodes of the show available for free. To access the rest you must subscribe to YouTube Premium.
In the case of Cobra Kai, which is currently YouTube Premium’s top-rated show on IMDb, only some episodes from its second season and the two free episodes from the first season have been made available in South Africa.
The rest of the episodes are tagged as “Video blocked in country”. Attempting to play them results in a black screen with a non-descriptive error message, as shown in the screenshot below.
Another YouTube Originals show that appears partially available is Impulse. However, this is only because Impulse has an unusual release model.
The second season of Impulse released on 16 October, and YouTube Premium subscribers were meant to be able to binge-watch the whole season immediately. Following the release, a new episode from the show becomes free to watch (with ads) every Wednesday.
Currently, the first few episodes of the second season of Impulse are unlocked, and it is only these episodes that are available in South Africa. Like Cobra Kai, the rest are tagged as “Video blocked in country”.
Film and Publication Board
In March, Google told MyBroadband that the reason for the limited number of YouTube Originals in South Africa is due to its age restriction obligations.
“We abide by local ratings regulations for YouTube Originals. We hope this content will be available on YouTube Premium in South Africa as soon as possible,” Google said.
The FPB is the government-sanctioned agency which provides films, TV series, and video games with age restrictions.
Google’s statement therefore suggested that it was waiting for the FPB to classify its videos and provide them with appropriate age restrictions.
However, the FPB has since told MyBroadband that Google does not need to submit its films and shows for classification. YouTube is allowed to self-classify the content on its platform.
“FPB has an online licensing agreement signed with Google for self-classification, where all platforms within SA under the Google parent company have an obligation to comply with the FPB legislative framework and classification guidelines,” the board stated.
“The YouTube platform therefore has an obligation to self-classify making use of the FPB Classification Guidelines.”
The FPB said that its classification guidelines are formulated through public engagement and research to ensure they are aligned to the South African values and norms.
The FPB’s licensing fee for online distribution is currently set at R795,000 per year, according to the Film and Publication Board Tariffs gazetted by former Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi on 6 November 2015.
Google can release all YouTube Originals to South Africa, but hasn’t
Based on the FPB’s feedback, there is nothing stopping Google from unblocking all YouTube Originals in the South African market.
The FPB did not respond to further questions regarding why it had published classification decisions for YouTube Originals if Google did not have to submit them for classification.
The FPB’s classification decisions document for February 2019 contains decisions for 11 episodes of original shows that come with a YouTube Premium subscription. These include Mind Field, Lifeline, and Rhett & Link’s Buddy System.
It is interesting to note that despite the FPB publishing classification decisions for episodes 3 and 4 of Lifeline, they remain blocked in South Africa.
Google was asked for comment on the lack of YouTube Originals in South Africa, but the company did not respond by the time of publication.