App Store games in SA “soon”?

The Film and Publications Board (FPB) has been working on a system that could allow content such as games from Apple’s App Store to be legally sold in South Africa.

This is according to Mmapula Fisha, COO of the FPB, who was responding to a question from Andre Gaum, Minister of Parliament for the ANC in the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs.

Gaum jokingly said after a presentation to the committee by FPB CEO Yoliswa Makhasi that the “guilty party” causing many apps to not be available in SA had been identified. He then asked the FPB for an explanation.

Lack of capacity to classify all the games wasn’t a valid excuse, Gaum said. “That is, in a democracy, not necessarily the right approach,” he said.

Gaum went on to suggest that in the event of a lack of capacity, content should be allowed “a point of departure” and then the FPB should catch up later.

Andre Gaum
Andre Gaum

This system to allow distribution of digital content in South Africa without having to go through a local ratings procedure has been in the making for some time, however.

When MyBroadband and MyGaming asked the FPB during April 2011 about the fact that there was no games category in the local App Store for iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad, the board said that they have not refused to accept content.

“Rather, distributors have not submitted nor have they formally approached us to outline any problems regarding the classification of this type of material,” the FPB said.

However, a month earlier the FPB told MyGaming that they are constantly in touch with distributors such as Microsoft.

“Whenever a distributor has a demonstrable desire to comply with the substance of our mandate and where it is possible to develop a model, the FPB will always consider [proposals to recognise international ratings in SA],” the FPB said.

Yoliswa Makhasi
Yoliswa Makhasi, Film and Publications Board CEO

Earlier this year (May 2012), Microsoft said that they have been working hard behind the scenes to support the FPB’s efforts to improve the SA rating situation for video games in general.

The FPB disagrees that it is the “guilty party”, as stated by Gaum, however.

According to Makhasi, the FPB was following the legislation given by Parliament which required certain things to be done in a certain manner.

She added that they have been working with industry to see how the issue could be tackled, and that legislation is needed that doesn’t frustrate industry or compromising on the key principles of the FPB.

Fisha later picked up where her CEO left off and explained that there was a need to look at core regulations with the industry to see if there was a way to let industry to use their own ratings system for South African audiences.

Mmapula Fisha
Mmapula Fisha, Film and Publications Board COO

In Apple’s case there are simply too many games, Fisha said. She said that Apple told the FPB that they were not going to submit their 101,000 games for classification as they already had a system for age ratings.

South Africa is only one of two countries in the world that insists on its own system of classification being used, Fisha said.

The challenge, therefore, is to find a way to comply with regulations without individually classifying every game, Fisha said.

Fisha said that South Africa was part of a global team that worked on a system to classify apps, while they were working locally to deal with these issues as well.

The FPB had enhanced their research capacity to be able to do this, Fisha said.

She went on to explain that classification boards in other countries had merely allowed the distributors to keep distributing whilst they found way to regulate it.

The FPB has allowed this in South Africa with manufacturers such as BlackBerry and HTC, Fisha said, but Apple decided that they did not want to go against the law so they would rather not distribute.

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App Store games in SA “soon”?