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Schools and Films

Information for teachers and parents

In New Zealand films are classified in accordance with the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. Depending on the nature of a film it can be classified as unrestricted, restricted, or objectionable (banned). 

Anyone of any age can see a film which is unrestricted. Unrestricted films are given ratings as a way of indicating the kind of audience they are recommended for. The ratings used in New Zealand are as follows:

  • G – suitable for general audiences
  • PG – parental guidance recommended for younger viewers
  • M – suitable for mature audiences 16 and over

What the restrictions mean

The Classification Office will restrict a film when it believes that making it available to everyone will be injurious to the public good. To be restricted, a film must deal with matters such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty or violence. The most common restrictions are R13, R16, and R18. When an age restriction is used it is because the Classification Office has decided that showing the film to someone under that age will be injurious to the public good. In the case of a violent film, for example, this could be because a younger person might find the images disturbing, or might not be able to put the violence into context.
Restrictions mean that only those who are over the age of the restriction can be shown the film. This is a legal requirement, and schools could be prosecuted if it is breached. A teacher showing an R16 film to students under the age of 16 could face fines of up to $10,000 or be imprisoned for up to three months. The school could also be considered liable, in which case the fines could be up to $25,000.

It is important that schools carefully consider the content of any restricted film they intend screening to students and ensure that students are over the age of restriction. A parent cannot give a school permission to screen a restricted film to an underage child. It is advisable that parents are always fully informed of the nature and classification of any films screened at school.

Applying for an exemption in order to screen a restricted film

Under section 44 of the Act schools can apply for an exemption from classification in order to screen a film to students below the age of restriction. An example of this would be a teacher wanting to show an R16 film to 15 year old students for the purposes of study. Applications can be made in the form of a letter to the Chief Censor explaining why an exemption is sought. The application should include a $100 fee. This will be refunded if the exemption is not granted. Click here for additional information on exemptions.

What is the difference between M and R16?

The most confusing part of the labelling system for many parents and teachers is the rating M. While this rating means that the film is unrestricted, it recommends that the film is more suitable for people over 16. This is not a restriction – strictly speaking a teacher could show a film with this rating to children of any age. R16 is a legal restriction.

What does the RP label mean?

Sometimes an RP classification is given, for example, RP13. This means a person younger than the age of restriction can watch the film but must be accompanied by an adult. This is so that the young person can be given support to deal with issues in the film.


For copyright information and copyright permission to screen films in schools contact NZFACT 0800 267 974

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