Ghana: New film law establishes strong National Film Authority oversight group

16 November 2016

The Ghanaian government passed its new film act to promote and grow the Ghanaian film industry and establishes a National Film Authority to oversee such development, including the task of developing a code of ethics for the industry, creating a committee to approve and classify films, and managing a new film fund, the Ghanaian government announced in a press release on 27 October 2016.

Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare, who sponsored the bill, said the new law would “curtail the unbridled importation of foreign films” and that “every country must pay a lot of attention to its film industry” because it is an “important art form, a source of popular entertainment and a powerful tool for educating the citizenry”, reported Ghana Business News on 27 October 2016.

The memorandum section of the bill explains in part the premise behind the new legislation:

Films are used to affirm, enrich and preserve the socio-cultural beliefs of the people. It is a major tool for contributing to national cohesion and for the safeguarding and promotion of the moral, ethical and aesthetic values of the society. Films are also viable for the projection of the image of the country on the global stage and for the promotion of tourism. It is however imperative that any motion picture appearing on the screens should be educative.

Charged with determining morality
The new authority will consist of 14 members, including a chairperson who is an expert in the country’s film industry and representatives from various related ministries and unions, all of whom will be appointed by the president.

As part of the authority’s duties, it will be tasked with “discouraging” films that “expose children and other vulnerable groups to physical moral hazards”, though the law makes no mention of what those “moral hazards” would entail and what steps the authority could take to “discourage” such scenes or films.

The authority would also “ensure that films do not portray any race, nationality, ethnic, religious or vulnerable groups like persons with disability (sic), the aged, women or children in a demeaning manner”, though, once again, the law makes no clear stipulation of what such portrayals may be and how the authority would steps the authority would take to ensure such offenses don’t occur.

Also, in much the same manner, the authority would “ensure that films do not offend the sensibilities of any section of the society or arouse ethnic, social or religious misunderstanding or hostility”, without clarifying what those sensitivities may be or what processes the authority should take in gauging the offensiveness of them or the methods by which they can ensure such offenses are not present in films.

The authority will also not approve “a film which it considers to be pornographic”, without stipulating what scenes or actions are within the definition of pornography.

Officers and penalties
Further, “authorised officers” of the new authority will be allowed to “enter premises”, such as cinemas, “where it is believed the provisions of this bill are not being complied with, or the officer has reason to believe that an exhibition is about to be held without a licence”.

Those who commit an offence of any part of the new law can have their film and equipment seized, be fined up to 1,000 penalty units (12,000 Ghanaian Cedis or approx. USD $3,000) and be imprisoned for a term of up to three years, or both. Violators can also be fined 100 penalty units (1,200 Ghanaian Cedis or approx. USD $300) for each day they continue to violate the law. 

Promoting a common identity
The law also enables the authority to encourage the “creation of a common identity for Ghanaians, Africans and people of African descent” through film, by using local languages, customs, national symbols and showing “positive cultural practices and traditions”, though it neither specifically outlines what these would be, nor does it establish what peoples are considered to positively contribute to a “common identity”.

The authority would also be in charge of administering a new Film Development Fund to support short, medium-length and full feature films that focus on “attitudinal change” or television productions that “facilitate attitude and behaviour change of the citizenry”. 

Establishing Film Classification Committee
The authority will be tasked with created a 12-member Film Classification Committee, which will include police, religious and gender experts, and once established, the committee will have the authority to bring in other individuals to preview films for classification.

As stated in the memorandum section of the bill: “the Film Classification Committee has the sole

responsibility to approve the content of a film, a poster or inlay card intended for the advertisement of a film before it is displayed.”

The new law also lays out a new film classification system with six rating categories, as opposed to the former three, including the “NS”, or “not suitable” category, that would allow the committee to deem a film not suitable for exhibition. The committee would also have the power to recommend changes be made to films before they would be approved for public screening.

The new law repeals the outdated Cinematography Act of 1961 and the Cinematography Amendment Decree of 1975.

Read Ghana’s 2016 Development and Classification of Film Bill in full here


» Government of Ghana – 27 October 2016:
Parliament passes new law to regulate locally produced movies

» Ghana Business News – 27 October 2016:
Ghana film industry act announced

» Ghana Justice – 26 October 2016:
Ghana film law to fine and jail those who breach it

» Pulse – 24 October 2016:
Nudity in Ghanaian movies banned 

» Ghana Legal:
Ghana 1961 Cinematography Act

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