Country’s top ‘creative’ triggers a New Year campaign to end decades of raw deal against his trade
Langkawi, Jan 1 2021: Award-winning movie producer Afdlin Shauki made no mention of YB Saifuddin Abdullah anywhere in his bruising maiden article for The Vibes entitled Low Pay and Zero Creative Freedom? That’s (Malaysian) Entertainment. But he might as well have.named the Minister of Communications and Multimedia. For the people Afdlin refers to as “creatives” come under Saifuddin’s watch. In other words, Saifuddin is directly responsible for “(we are) the whores in an industry where the pimps make all the money and treat us like crap”.
The pimps here do not refer to Saifuddin, though. Rather, they are the television stations and investors so used to their pound of flesh. At least I think so. But politicians like Saifuddin are equally responsible because they hardly do anything to improve the system and stop the prostitution/slavery of the creatives. Afdlin wrote that these politicians would use the creatives for political and government events and then forsake them.
“... I believe things were set in motion to keep us needy and poor from the get-go. This is done by denying the creatives a fair share of the work they are doing at all levels. The people who benefit are the (television) stations and investors. The spoils of war are never shared. The rates TV stations pay have not changed much since the days of P. Ramlee.”
These are serious, harsh words from a man known for making audiences laugh but based on the peer support Afdlin is getting, I’d say Saifuddin (and the pimps) better do something quick.
Saniboey Mohd Ismail, journalist and content creator: I can feel Afdlin’s frustrations. To those broadcasters and tv stations, the ideas the creatives come up with don’t mean a thing. They (ideas) have zero value (to these stations) and when these ideas do get produced into content (which is valuable), the people who created those ideas get paid once and that’s it — they’re told to take a walk. This is what I call slavery. This is how the government or the people managing this country see art and threin lies our weakness as a society. When we (the creatives) ask for some sort of royalties or sharing of IP, the tv stations tell us that since they are funding the project, they will have full rights over the IPs. The fact that the ideas that give birth to valuable content originated from the creatives does not seem to matter. Which is absolutely unfair. But where to people like Afdlin go to complain, to be heard? This whole system has to change. Associations that govern the industry must stop acting like politicians. Their job is to stand up for the industry and help deal with these problems. This is not about (your) power, this is about (your) survival.
The government, on its part, should start engaging (the creatives) Commission studies on how the creatives can actually contribute towards building a better society. Ringgit and sen are equally as important as integrity and what the content creation industry needs now is respect, integrity and justice.
Jehan Miskin, actor and creative director: Afdlin has the courage to speak the cold hard truth about the entertainment industry. The seeds of the industry’s problems were sown decades ago when the government effectively allowed the TV stations to monopolise the industry.
RTM is state-run, TV3 monopolises free-to-air and Astro is the sole player in paid TV. This has led to a tremendous exploitation of the creative industry, with TV stations dictating terms, hardly paying a living wage, owning all IPs outright and many other violations that can only happen in a monopoly.
This situation leads to the industry losing many skilled and talented film makers every year. After all, would you stay in an industry where you are and can hardly earn a living, especially if you are ambitious and crave success?
I myself have found my company producing more commercials over the years, simply because it is healthier to compete in a free market, rather than one monopolised by the TV stations.
Would we not prefer to produce quality TV shows for audiences? Of course any film maker worth his salt would, but not if we can hardly pay our team a living wage, and create quality we would need to make a loss and after months of hard work, we end up with zero rights to this piece of work we created.
This is truly a sad state of affaires, as the stories told by the industry are crucial to building up national identity as well as sharing our stories with the world. As long as there is no political will to improve this situation, the entertainment industry will continue to be exploitedvand lose its best talents, to the detriment of the country.
Hans Isaac, former Finas chairman/actor: We have shared many conversations and battles to make changes. Nothing has changed with the old 244 Finas Act to protect us. No Socso, no EPF, no copyright protection, salaries are the same budget, associations are all self benefitting and led by the same old guards. Trust me cos I personally gave it a shot as chairman of Finas (only 14 months) before being terminated due to the backdoor government. In nine actually working months we managed to deliver a report card of 26 improvements as Chairman. But the top 2 was to increase the RTM tv budget by 15-20 per cent across the board and to get the Selangor state to give lower cinema tax rebate from 25 per cent to 15 per cent in their 2021 Selangor Budget. Having said this our report card was not recognised by the new Finas line-up and in short they did not want to show that we made an impact. This is all due to politics. I’ve always said creative and politics don’t mix well. We do need the government support to push the legal and financial backing. Funds and guidelines can be given by the government but the structure and implentation must be designed as a commercial and viable identity for the long run. There are over 100 associations governing the industry. We need a restructuring. Many of these associations will have to be abolished.
Salleh Said Keruak, former Minister of Comms and Multimedia: The government needs to be open minded about the issues being raised. (When I was the minister) I did organise brainstorming with the creatives. More discussions should be held to tackle the various issues in step by step. Look at it positively
p.s. This blogger could not get Saifuddin to respond to his WhatsApp messages. A couple of top tv execs contacted have chosen to wait and see ...